Case Number 01991


MGM // 1989 // 97 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Nicholas Sylvain (Retired) // June 28th, 2002

The Charge

A high-pressure sales pitch. A high-pressure love life. For Joey O'Brien, life is no bed of Rollses.

Opening Statement

An intermittently funny Robin Williams vehicle and all around bare bones DVD release, Cadillac Man seems set to become a run-it-into-the-ground staple of Comedy Central.

Facts of the Case

Joey O'Brien (Robin Williams) has his hands full with life, at least when he's not trying to sell a car to a newly bereaved widow (Elaine Stritch) at her late husband's funeral. He's behind on his support payments to his ex-wife Tina (Pamela Reed) whom he still loves, he's worried about his rebellious teenage daughter, his mother is worried about him, he owes $20,000 to a mob boss, and he's juggling wacky designer Lila (Lori Petty) and bored wife Joy Munchack (Fran Drescher). On top of that, his successful sales career at Big Jack Turgeon's auto business is in jeopardy unless he can sell twelve cars in a day.

Matters take a serious turn when an enraged, armed, and witless husband Larry (Tim Robbins) crashes into the showroom, armed with a bomb and a rifle, swearing vengeance upon the man who is sleeping with his wife Donna (Annabella Sciorra). To defuse the situation, Joey takes the heat to save the miserable skin of adulterer Little Jack Turgeon (Paul Guilfoyle). While the NYPD surrounds the lot and negotiator Captain Mason (Anthony Powers) fumes and eats dim sum, Joey and Larry begin an unusual kidnapper-hostage dialogue. If Joey can make Larry buy the ultimate sales job, then everyone just might get out alive.

The Evidence

Back before Robin Williams waded into his recent treacle-fest career phase (and felt the need for a Death to Smoochy and Insomnia antidote), he was merely the manic and strange comic coming off a successful TV show (Mork and Mindy). His forays into movies were a change of pace from his TV and comic roots, tending to the oddball (The World According to Garp) or light comedy with dramatic tones (Moscow On The Hudson), with his share of disasters (Popeye). Eventually, he began to find his cinematic footing and find projects more in tune with his tastes and abilities.

In that context, Cadillac Man plays like a "conventional comedy as Robin Williams vehicle" that waters Williams down into near blandness. He never gets his comedy momentum up into the frenzied, snappy humored chaos that he does so well, but neither does the serious drama let us see the devoted actor that he has cultivated so carefully. The premise of a good-natured, serial philanderer who is overwhelmed by the collective demands of his women and assorted vices squanders nearly the first third of the movie before we get to the meat of the film, at which point you may already have lost interest or dozed off.

When Tim Robbins (Bull Durham, Jacob's Ladder, The Shawshank Redemption) as lunkhead Larry shows up, at last we get to mine the comic premise, but the yield is low-grade ore. Larry is, well, just dumb, and not too likeable, particularly when he very nearly shoots his wife in the head and does shoot a police officer (in the foot, though very easily elsewhere). I'll root for nice-guy at heart Joey and his fellow hostages, but for the moron who shows up waving a rifle around and hosing it down with bullets, I'd rather kick him in the ass and lock him up for a good, long time. Larry needs to be far, far funnier or less stupidly dangerous.

The rest of the cast sports a few familiar faces, such as Pamela Reed (The Right Stuff, Kindergarten Cop), Lori Petty (A League of Their Own, Tank Girl), and Annabella Sciorra (Jungle Fever, Cop Land). Fran Drescher (UHF, The Nanny) is as grating as ever, but Paul Guilfoyle (L.A. Confidential, Air Force One, C.S.I.) merits commendation for easy talking manager/sleazoid Little Jack Turgeon.

The anamorphic video is good, but not spectacular. Color saturation is a bit on the bland side, a few blips and flecks show themselves, and the picture is on the softer side of life, but nothing here is too evil. Overall, Cadillac Man has a decently clean print and is very watchable.

The audio track is unspectacular Dolby Surround, with most action in the center channel and little else for any of your other speakers to do. It gets the job done with dialogue, but no more than that, unless you count horn honking as a spectacular sound effect.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The only extra content is the theatrical trailer. It is always a shame and a disappointment when so little consideration is given to a title, but at least Cadillac Man is priced appropriately ($15 retail). A commentary track from director Roger Donaldson would have been interesting, given his subsequent big-budget action in Dante's Peak and Species. Maybe he'd rather forget having done Cadillac Man?

Closing Statement

Some films you run out to see in the theaters on opening night, some films you catch at a bargain matinee, and then there are the films you see (if at all) when they hit the rental shelves. Cadillac Man is in the latter category, with enough comedy to have you smiling most of the time even though it lacks any spectacular action or bust-a-gut laughs. This is tailor made rental fodder unless you are allergic to Robin Williams.

The Verdict

Cadillac Man is a likeable enough rogue, worthy of lenient treatment by this Court. The Court is not so charitable towards MGM with their indifferent DVD treatment. Guilty!

Review content copyright © 2002 Nicholas Sylvain; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 87
Audio: 76
Extras: 5
Acting: 73
Story: 70
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile
Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Theatrical Trailer

* IMDb