Sunday, May 8, 2011

Brewster's Millions - 1985

"Brewster's Millions" - 1985
Dir. by Walter Hill - 1 hr. 37 min.

Official Trailer

What to do with a comedy that isn't particularly funny?  There's no way to make that sound any better, either.  But while I didn't find it particularly funny (at least not in a laugh-out-loud way), it was still an interesting, engrossing film.  It's the same issue I had with parts of "Get Him to the Greek;" to what degree does something billed as a comedy have an obligation to deliver laughs consistently?  It brings up a lot of questions about pigeonholing and to what extent genre must dictate content.

Monty Brewster (played by Richard Pryor) is an aging minor-league relief pitcher who, along with his catcher/best friend Spike (John Candy), are let go from their contracts due to getting thrown in jail over a bar fight.  At what seems like a real dead end, Brewster is informed that he's inherited a sizeable amount of money.  The catch: spend $30 millions in 30 days with nothing to show for it to net $300 million (informing no one of the reason that he's tearing through that much money), with failure to do so meaning that he'd receive no further money.  If that sounds like a manageable feat, it was probably almost unthinkable 25 years ago.

One of the things that I appreciated about the story is that it since it was done in the pre-therapy-as-humor days, we watch Pryor act and then have to deal with the consequences.  There's little hand-wringing or pop psychology involved, just action and reaction, and then Pryor's character having to deal with the fact that he's being perceived as an asshole or a lunatic, and with no way of correcting (or even nuancing) this popular perception.  Also, the movie deals fairly honestly with Brewster's hanger-ons.  Some people see what's going on and are content to enjoy the ride at his expense, some try to do what they think is the right thing, some are downright ineffectual.  For what's an oft-revisited comedy scenario (there have been nine versions of the original novel made into movies), there's a lot of meat to dig in to.  This movie does just that, although not as deeply as it could (but who wants to watch a 3-hour comedy?).

As an aside, one of the other things that I found fascinating is how much sports and sports movies (which this is, partially) have changed since this movie was made.  Take a minute and think about any current sport that could pass off the number 10 (Pryor and Candy) both as competitors in the same sport.  Maybe football, but that's even a stretch.  I'm sure at the time this film was made, it wasn't even noticed.  But in the passing years, the physical ideal of an athlete has changed to such a degree that anyone who isn't a gnarled mass of muscle couldn't pass as athlete, even in film, even in a comedy.  The related point is that I'm having a hard time thinking of not only a decent baseball film in recent years, but any baseball film at all.  The late 80's seem to have been the golden era of baseball movies (including "The Natural," "Bull Durham," and "Major League," to mention a few), but there hasn't been anything half as good in 20 years.

There's a lot of positive nostalgia factors involved here, with Richard Pryor and John Candy present, fantastic 80's clothes (and giant eyeglasses, especially), and the story is a solid one.  Despite not laughing frequently, I was still into the movie for the full run time.  The real humor is in the bittersweet moments (there are two biggies: Brewster funding an exhibition game vs. the Yankees that he gets to pitch in, and a moment near the end of the film with an interior decorator), they resonate much more deeply than tossed off one-liners do.

3 / 5 - NF Streaming

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