Perhaps Dyan Cannon was looking for a way to help finance her career as a feature-film director (The End of Innocence); maybe Phylicia Rashad felt she ought to do something slapsticky after all these years of verbal sparring with Bill Cosby. These are the best reasons I can come up with to justify either actress’ involvement in Jailbirds, a woefully unfunny TV movie.
Jailbirds is intended as a comic, female version of the Sidney Poitier-Tony Curtis movie The Defiant Ones: Through a series of plot twists too tedious to detail, Rashad (as a Los Angeles businesswoman) and Cannon (as a Southern seamstress) end up handcuffed together, on the run from the law, sought for crimes they didn’t commit. Early on in the movie, the stars have a food fight in a prison cell — they throw grits at each other — and the quality of the humor gets worse from there.
Jailbirds plays on these actresses’ worst traits: Rashad’s cold imperiousness, Cannon’s effusive flakiness. No fewer than three writers — Craig Heller, Guy Shulman, and Marcia Midkiff — labored here, providing no laughs whatsoever. D-