Tags: Dark Comedy - Conspiracy - Kidnapping - Revenge
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Producer: Michael Peyser
Writer: Dale Launer
Starring: Danny DeVito, Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater, Bette Midler, and Bill Pullman
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Release: June 27th, 1986
Did Ya Know: Bette Midler claims that Danny DeVito called her twice after the premiere of this film: once to congratulate her, and a second time, twenty minutes after the first call, during which he and Midler both broke down in a nervous frenzy over how terrible the movie was, and how their careers were over. The film went on to become a box office smash.
Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, and Judge Reinhold star in this uniquely dark comedy, directed by the all-star team of David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams. Three filmmakers that were responsible for some of the funniest comedies of the eighties like Airplane and Top Secret. It was released in theaters on June 27th, 1986, and did fairly well with the critics. According to Wikipedia, the film grossed $71,600,000 at the box office. I am going to be looking at the Touchstone Home Video release that had come out the same year.
This screwball comedy revolves around a slimy businessman, Sam Stone, and his plan to kill his wife, Barbara. Things go awry when a couple, who had been wronged by Stone in the past, kidnap Barbara to extort money from Sam. However, this all seems to work in Sam Stone's favor and he has no intention of paying up. Not to mention that Sam's mistress has been planning to screw him over too. All these twists and we are still years away from M. Knight Shyamalan movies.
Danny DeVito is such a great comedic actor. He is always fun and this role is no exception. I found myself chuckling quite a bit. His Sam Stone character is a sleazy businessman that wants his wife dead, period. But somehow, DeVito brings a humanistic approach to the character that makes him almost sympathetic. It’s wonderful.
Bette Midler, Judge Reinhold, and Helen Slater serve their purpose. Bette Midler does her best to be funny, but, unless you are a fan of her routine, it gets old really quickly. Outrageous is a good word for her character. Reinhold and Slater, on the other hand, are bland and leave a lot to be desired. Even Bill Pullman is very… mediocre. Not very memorable at all.
This movie has a killer soundtrack. Very eighties. A lot of synths. The opening track is “Ruthless People” by a synth-supported Mick Jagger. It’s a good, radio-friendly, New Wave track that is complemented by the animated opening intro sequence.
It's taken me years to get around to seeing this movie. However, I am very familiar with the box art. I can vividly recall the strange-looking duck masks at the top of the box. Something about them scared me. They were so... devoid of emotion. I remember staring at that cover and feeling uneasy. It's weird. But this film isn't off-putting or scary at all. In fact, it's hilarious. This is a great comedy of the eighties, that sadly gets overlooked. Much like a lot of these comedies that star Danny DeVito stars in. I can safely recommend this comedy to anyone looking for a good time. It’s a VHS that collectors might want to expand their collection into some more obscure titles. Make sure you get this 1986 release though, it has the best cover art.