The are six Thin Man films, After being the second in a series that spanned from 1934 to 1947. Like the first film, After the Thin Man is an off-the-wall comedy about a retired detective and his rich wife who solve crimes for fun in their spare time (that being all of their time). In both there’s enough plotting and mystery to make them work as straight-up crime films but you also get the playful antics of Nick and Nora’s adventures in marital life, dog ownership and drinking… and there’s a lot of drinking. The couple’s seeming indifference to serious matters and not allowing them to derail their daily doings, drinkings and whims is where the films’ charm really lies. Yes, there may be a plot, but it’s merely a distant backdrop to the faces pulled by a semi-sober couple trying to make scrambled eggs at two in the morning or trying to retrieve a piece of evidence from their dog before he eats it. They’re an unconventional couple, unconventionally in love… or perhaps there’s more convention in the believability of the chemistry between Powell and Loy than any clichéd representation of the American family? They’re married and they have a lot of fun, often while making a mockery of each other. It is a comedy so you’ve got to laugh at something!
Sometimes I think a film’s success or failure really depends on having no critical weaknesses as much as having many strengths. With After the Thin Man you get a decent script, especially when it comes to marital comedy, interesting plotting and good acting all ’round. William Powell and Myrna Loy in this kind of form (with that script) would make the film worth a look even if there was drabness elsewhere, but there isn’t. The dog is funny, too… and there’s also James Stewart as that really earnest guy he always is. Like the first film, the plot details begin to crystallise into something more coherent towards the end and things get (a little) more serious. Pacing. It has that as well, even if it may sometimes be a drunken meander interrupted here and there by inconvenient reality and the silly seriousness of the outside world beyond the blissful bubble of Powell and Loy. It’s not just their characters’ bliss, it’s ours too. If you don’t like it then these films may not be for you. After really is a good example of a by-the-numbers sequel done right: it’s more of the same with a few twists, but with a lot of attention given to maintaining high quality everything. It’s also almost two hours long, whereas the original was your standard ninety minutes. I’m surprised and very pleased as to just how good this film turned out to be and plan to watch at least the next one. Not straight away, mind, but when I feel like another helping of Nick and Nora Charles. I strongly recommend the first Thin Man. If you like it too, sit on it for a while and keep After for one of those days when you feel like a good laugh. With a sequel as good as this, there’s no need to re-watch The Thin Man when you could enjoy the next one instead!