Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association, Detroit Film Critics Society and Online Film Critics Society since 2010. Tom is the Executive Producer and co-host of the syndicated TV show, "Movie Show Plus," which has been on the air for 20+ years in the Metro-Detroit market and Mid-West. He is also the film critic for WXYZ-TV. Twitter: @tomsantilli, Facebook & Instagram: @filmsurvivor.
On the heels of the recent Lucy and Desi drama, "Being the Ricardos," a new documentary on the famous TV duo goes a bit deeper, and gives their fans a few more delightful hours of laughs, context and insights.
"Lucy and Desi" isn't what you would call a "hard-hitting" documentary, but more of a reverent celebration of their lives and legacies, and a must-see for any of the millions who fell in love with Lucy all those many years ago.
For the most part, "Lucy and Desi" is a straight-forward cradle-to-grave documentary that jumps back-and-forth between the lives of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who would ultimately cross paths and change American culture forever. We know that this is an "authorized" documentary because both of their children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. are featured, and much of the voice-over is provided by Lucy and Desi themselves, from audio tapes that were recorded throughout their lives and revealed here for the first time.
Of course, the romance culminated in the "I Love Lucy" TV show, the ground-breaking sitcom that aired from 1951 to 1957. Saying that it "revolutionized" television is almost putting it too lightly. It was the first three-camera sitcom taped in front of a live audience, and the first to launch what we know now as the rerun model. Within the show itself, it broke ground with its depiction of Cuban-Americans, an ensemble cast, women, pregnancy and a whole myriad of other topics that simply hadn't been tackled up to that point. It was watched by over 40 million people each year, ending its run while still ranking as the #1 show on TV.
The documentary tells us who Lucy and Desi were prior to meeting and making history, but also how their love story fell apart shortly thereafter. The most touching portion of the documentary comes with a story given to us by Lucie Arnaz, their daughter, about Desi's final days before his death from lung cancer in 1986. Lucy and Desi's story was one centered by an everlasting love, despite what you may have heard.
The film also touches on the wide-reaching influence of the talents, specifically Lucy's. There are interviews from Carol Burnett and Bette Midler who talk about their encounters with Lucy and how her work effected their own careers. But look no further than the fact that "Lucy and Desi" is directed by former SNL star and comedian Amy Poehler, for evidence of Lucille Ball's generation-spanning influence.
Still, much of "Lucy and Desi" feels glossed over, white-washed, or over-simplified. Perhaps that's the way it should be. Why take away from one of our country's most popular couples? We all have our own personal memories and relationship with the stars of "I Love Lucy," so is it necessary to dig up ugly truths about them in a way that may taint the way viewers remember them?
Nah. "Lucy and Desi" isn't meant to dig-deep, and feels comfortable enough just making sure that we remember who they were, the love that they did share and the good that they put out into the world. As Desi once said, "I Love Lucy" was not just a title, and that's pretty much the lasting feeling you'll have after watching this loving remembrance.
Run Time: 1 hour 43 minutes.
Featuring: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Lucie Arnaz, Desi Arnaz Jr., Carol Burnett, Bette Midler, Charo, Norman Lear.Directed by Amy Poehler ("Moxie," "Wine Country").
"Lucy and Desi" is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, March 4th, 2022.