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For, Friday, July 7, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Warner Archive, which has lately been releasing widescreen DVDs of films that have only previously been released in pan-and-scan versions, has added this Goldie Hawn comedy to its catalog. Here’s my Dec. 23, 1984, Deseret News review.

Buck Henry’s script for “Protocol,” as directed by Herbert Ross, is very much like an updated version of Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” with a feminist twist.

In “Protocol,” Goldie Hawn, who is also executive producer of the film, returns to her dippy blonde persona – and age hasn’t changed a thing. It bubbles with charm every bit as much as it did on TV’s “Laugh-In,” and her Oscar-winning role in “Cactus Flower.”

Hawn plays kookie Sunny Davis, a cocktail waitress in the very bizarre Safari Club, in Washington, D.C.’s low-rent district. She lives with a gay couple, but her roots are Middle America. She’s naïve, extremely candid and in genuine contrast to all the manipulative sharks that make up Washington society.

When she accidentally foils an assassination attempt on a Middle Eastern prince, she finds herself in the limelight as a national heroine.


                         Goldie Hawn, 'Protocol'

Cliff DeYoung plays the head of the State Department who decides to use her as bait to get the prince to allow a military base in his country. So Sunny goes to work in the Protocol Department, where she finds herself rising rapidly through the ranks. But the real plot by DeYoung and the ambassador who is the head of Protocol (Gail Strickland) is to grant the prince’s wish that Sunny become part of his harem in exchange for the base. Needless to say, they don’t tell Sunny.

The result of all this is a wacky, frequently very funny comedy with something to say about the complacency of Americans concerning the process of their government.

Occasionally, “Protocol” gets a little heavy-handed, and the PG rating seems a bit lenient considering some vulgarity and some of the language here (there’s also some brief partial nudity), but as good-natured, sophisticated humor goes, this film is generally quite successful in its approach, and very restrained for a Buck Henry script.

The majority of the film’s success hinges on Goldie Hawn’s charm, and she is more than up to the task, with her delightfully scatterbrained character, which has always struck me as something of a cross between Harpo Marx and Gracie Allen. Whether she’s wide-eyed and innocent, delivering incredulous one-liners, or becoming filled with indignation as she confronts her superiors, Hawn is always in control and an utter delight to watch.


                           Goldie Hawn, 'Protocol'

In addition to politics, Henry also takes a scathing satirical look at the news media, and though exaggerated to some degree, most of those gags are right on target.

The supporting cast is very good, with a number of familiar faces. And some of the minor subplots have just the right amount of lunacy to work within the context of the film. Though it gets a little preachy toward the end, “Protocol” works fairly well on a “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington” basis. It’s quite refreshing for a political satire to become an endorsement of democracy. And it works.