Jan 25, 2016
Leonard Part 6 (1987) (part 1 of 15)
Note from the author: This recap was updated July 11, 2010 with new screencaps and new snarky comments, thanks to the DVD release of Leonard Part 6, available now from Amazon.com!
The Cast of Characters:
Leonard Parker (Bill Cosby). A secret agent working for the CIA. Also, a world-famous celebrity. These two things are not as mutually exclusive as one might believe. Nothing fazes Leonard, but it remains unclear whether that’s a result of his years of experience and nerves of steel, or Bill Cosby’s utter boredom with the role. Complicating his efforts to save the world are an estranged wife and a rebellious daughter.
Frayn (Tom Courtenay). Leonard’s butler. Also provides the most incessant, nattering, useless voiceover narration since The Beast of Yucca Flats. Frayn is Alfred to Leonard’s Batman, meaning he hangs out in the basement of his mansion ready at all times to suit Leonard up, and occasionally make out with him.
Medusa (Gloria Foster). Leonard’s nemesis in this particular “adventure”. Wants to induce mind control over all the animals in northern California to, um, liberate them, and um… Well, to be honest, the current U.S. tax code makes more sense than her villainous plot. But she sure knows how to dress!
Allison Parker (Pat Colbért). Leonard’s wife, who left him because of his secret agent job. Oddly, they haven’t divorced despite being separated for seven years. Leonard desperately wants her back for a lot of reasons I can’t quite discern, but I’m pretty sure that list does not include “her dynamic personality”.
Joan Parker (Victoria Rowell). Leonard’s rebellious, soul-searching, navel-gazing (literally) daughter. Has all kinds of romantic notions of what she wants to do in this world, which causes her to change her life goals every week. On this particular week, she’s taking a creepy cue from Anna Nicole and dating a septuagenarian.
Nick Snyderburn (Joe Don Baker). Leonard’s boss at the CIA. Primary purpose is to throw tantrums, be a pain in Leonard’s ass, and occasionally get attacked by rabbits. Amazingly, at no point in this movie does Joe Don get drunk, sleep with a hooker, or shoot innocent people in the back.
In the mid-’80s, there were few stars in the comedy world bigger than Bill Cosby. He’d already been a well-known personality for decades, starring in I Spy, creating and voicing Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, releasing top-selling comedy records, and even sitting in for Johnny Carson on occasion. But it wasn’t until The Cosby Show became the highest rated TV series in America for three straight seasons that Cosby reached the echelons of superstardom. So it came as no surprise when he decided to parlay his newfound popularity into a starring role in his own big-screen, big-budget star vehicle.
Leonard Part 6 (and no, Parts 1 through 5 don’t exist; it’s a dumb joke that’s “explained” in the movie) certainly wasn’t Cosby’s first movie. Long before playing Heathcliff Huxtable, he appeared in modest films like Uptown Saturday Night (one of several opposite Sidney Poitier) and Mother, Jugs & Speed (opposite Harvey Keitel and another Agony Booth favorite, Raquel Welch).
But Leonard Part 6, his very first post-Cosby Show role, was a whole ‘nother story. The entire production was beholden to Cosby’s ego; Not only did he receive above-the-title billing, but he also served as producer and came up with the story. And thanks to his presence, money—much to the detriment of the finished product—was no object.
I’ll have plenty to say about the movie itself in due time, but for me, the really interesting thing about Leonard Part 6 is what Cosby did after the movie was finished. Despite being deeply involved with many aspects of the production, Cosby trashed this movie before it even came out. It was a disaster and he knew it, and every talk show appearance originally meant to plug the movie instead became an opportunity for Cosby to expressly warn people not to see it.
To no one’s surprise, the movie tanked, big time.