Barring Sir Winston, Alastair Sim is the top performer in Britain today. If Alec Guinness fans disagree, they need only attend Folly to be Wise. The film itself suffers from unwarranted moralizing and an ill-constructed plot, but Sim's agreeable eccentricity equals and sometimes surpasses anything Guinness has done.
The role of army Captain William Paris calls for a degree of quiet insanity well-suited to both Sim and British comedy. As entertainment officer and Chaplain, Paris decides that the weekly groans of a string quartet are hardly a diversion for his troops. To his quest for a program replacement, the Captain applies his own special talents of adroit bungling and naivete. He is essentially a master of the faux pas, breeching social etiquette regularly and filling in the gaps with comic dignity and a pained smile.
As the Captain continues his search, he decides to present a panel show, "Brain's trust," to entertain the Army base. Made up of local oddities, the panel includes a love triangle composed of artist, wife, and rival. When the question of marriage is raised, these three breaks up the show, washing the soiled linen of their marriage in public, while Sim tries unsuccessfully to shift the discussion to bottle-flys and cows.
As long as Folly to be Wise sticks to its farcical panel show and Sim's fumblings, the film displays the flimsy plot of James Birdie's play, It Depends What You Mean, to best advantage. Moreover, it brings to the screen such engaging people as Martita Hunt, an English dowager, and Roland Culver, the caustic artist. But coupled with these unlikely characters are supposedly real people, a secretary and her beau, who want to know what marriage really means.
Folly to be Wise could just well have left the question unanswered, since any seriousness seems out of place amidst Sim and his friends. An inept bit of philosophy, that love is a matter for nature and not the experts, sums up the title, and also manages to put an end to the movie. This sentiment, however, is only a minor flaw, hardly capable of tarnishing Mr. Sim and his latest film.