An outrageous piece of punning transforms Chance, the gardener, into Chauncy Gardener. As often happens in movies, he is pushed into outlandish situations (like advising the president on economic policy), and though its clear he’s talking rubbish, everyone around decides that he is brilliant. “You have the gift of being natural”, he is told by Melvyn Douglas’ character, a dying king-maker whose wife brings Chance (played by Peter Sellers) home after inadvertently injuring him. Natural, sure, but at what price interesting?
Chance is of the same ilk as characters like Forrest Gump and Rizvan Khan, but he has nothing of their charm, and it becomes increasingly difficult for the viewer to forge any sort of connect with him. In fact, the only character who comes close to engaging the audience’s sympathies is Shirley MacLaine as a sad widow-to-be. It’s almost degrading when she throws herself at Chance - one just cannot see where the attraction lies. Chance isn’t enterprising, or funny, or perceptive – he just walks around making vague pronouncements, and inexplicably, the world is his stooge. But that’s a movie world, and those watching this in the real one may ask themselves exactly why they have to pretend to be so stupid.