What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? Marks 55 Years

Mary Tyler Moore in What's So Bad About Feeling Good? Courtesy of Universal.

What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? feels a bit too timely in 2023 but the comedy marks the 55th anniversary of its theatrical release in 1968.

With this weekend’s HBO premiere of Being Mary Tyler Moore, there’s no time like the present to revisit some of her previous feature films, let alone her work in general. Kino Lorber Studio Classics released this comedy back in 2021. But for one reason or another, I’m just now getting to watching it. In any event, it’s timeliness is not an understatement. I mean, you have a film about an euphoric epidemic because of a toucan stowing away on a South American banana boat! What could possibly go wrong?!?

In order to stop the spread of an unknown epidemic, a ship is about to be quarantined at the film’s start but crew the frees a toucan before anything can happen to it. Next thing you know, the toucan makes its way to Pete’s (George Peppard) loft. He is one of the first New Yorkers to be infected. After girlfriend Liz (Mary Tyler Moore) notices his behavior changing, she soon learns from police about the toucan. By the time she can confront her boyfriend, it is too late. He’s been infected, shaved his beard off, and is now proposing marriage. Pete later tricks Liz and the rest of the commune in the loft so that they, too, can feel this wave of euphoria. Not surprisingly, they spread it through New York City.

The Mayor (John McMartin) brings in presidential aide J. Gardner Monroe (Dom DeLuise) in trying to prevent a citywide panic. They distribute masks to the city but Pete, Liz, and company find ways to infect the masks. Pete and Liz adopt the toucan, who they named Amigo. Unfortunately for them, the bird is captured shortly thereafter. The government makes an antidote and gives it to the masses.

Much like the recent pandemic, there is no shortage of people wearing masks in the What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? With all the warnings in the film, it is surprising that the film didn’t make its way into the conversation in the same way that Contagion did. I mean, you have the same exact warnings here: masks and a virus impacting the economy. Instead of deaths, there are multiple people applying for a marriage license at the courthouse. However, it is a bad time for attorneys expecting to take in a big settlement. The euphoric wave leads to lawsuit settlements rather than go to trial.

Filmmaker George Seaton would only direct two more feature films, including 1970’s Airport. Most surprisingly is that he teams up with Robert Pirosh on the screenplay for the first time since A Day at the Races in 1937. But unlike the Marx Brothers comedy, this comedy is very different in tone. It is more or less a satire and in line with other comedies of the late 1960s. Making people laugh in the late 1960s was not an easy feat, not with the Vietnam War going on. If you’re a Dom DeLuise fan, you will not see him performing similar antics to his work in Mel Brooks films. Suffice it to say, DeLuise’s performance nowhere near as antic as his later years.

What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? manages to find the humor in an epidemic and also shows audiences the proper pandemic protocols decades before Covid. Again, I ask: how is this film not more popular than it should be?!?

DIRECTOR: George Seaton
SCREENWRITERS: George Seaton and Robert Pirosh
CAST: George Peppard, Mary Tyler Moore, Dom DeLuise, John McMartin, and Susan Saint James, Don Stroud

Universal released What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? in theaters on May 24, 1968. Grade: 4/5

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.