(director: James Neilson; screenwriters: Blanche Hanalis/Jane Trahey; cinematographer: Sam Leavitt; editor: Adrienne Fazan; music: Lalo Schifrin; cast: Rosalind Russell (Mother Superior Simplicia), Stella Stevens (Sister George), Binnie Barnes (Sister Celestine), Mary Wickes (Sister Clarissa), Dolores Sutton (Sister Rose Marie), Susan St. James (Rosabelle), Barbara Hunter (Marvel Ann), Milton Berle (Film director), Arthur Godfrey (Bishop), Van Johnson (Father Chase), Robert Taylor (Mr. Farriday); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: G; producer: William Frye; Columbia Pictures; 1968)

“Nothing much interesting or funny here.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A tepid, contrived, lightweight, clean fun religious comedy, going against the rebellious trend in 1968 for wilder pics that reflected more earnestly and radically on the changing times. It’s directed by the mediocre filmmaker James Neilson (“Return of the Gunfighter”/”The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin”/”Bon Voyage!”), and is a much inferior sequel to the hit family comedy The Trouble With Angels (1966). Nothing much interesting or funny here, as it tries to make funny without offering much in insight over the conservative Catholic Church becoming more liberal since the early 1960s due to Vatican II. This convent film pits the pious conservative Mother Superior Rosalind Russell against the enlightened younger upstart streetwise hip nun Stella Stevens. The one-joke comedy looks a lot like a made-for-television movie and has elderly stars like Milton Berle, Arthur Godfrey, Van Johnson and Robert Taylor make cameos. It could have benefited greatly if Luis Bunuel was the director and not a graduate of Disney. The bland theme song is by the composers Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, known for their bubblegum hits that include most of the Monkees’ classics.

The pious old-fashioned Mother Superior Simplicia (Rosalind Russell) resignedly accompanies the liberal Sister George (Stella Stevens) to chaperone the high-spirited girls of St. Francis Academy in Pennsylvania to an ecumenical peace rally in Santa Barbara, California, after the young nun got permission from the bishop (Arthur Godfrey), and they trek there by bus. En route they encounter unusual bus trouble in their new bus; attend an amusement park; run into a Hell’s Angels-like gang of menacing motorcyclists; spend a night at a Catholic boys’ school run by Father Chase (Van Johnson), where they attend a rock dance; in New Mexico they are hosted in a dude ranch by the gracious millionaire Mr. Farriday (Robert Taylor) and his six sons; in Arizona they are attacked by Indian extras and then the enraged film director (Milton Berle), who becomes testy because the bus ruined his cowboy and Indian chase scene. During the California rally, the nuns resolve their differences as a good will gesture to their faith and change their former habits for short skirts and ebony hose (which goes for the film’s biggest chuckle).

Mary Wickes, Binnie Barnes and Dolores Sutton reprise their roles in the original as sister teachers in the Catholic school, while the stowaway Susan Saint James and her best friend Barbara Hunter play the two most mischievous students in the unruly bunch.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2008 GRADE: C     https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/