Sony // 1989 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Dean Roddey (Retired) // March 6th, 2000
Nerves of Steel. Body of Iron. Brain of Stone.
I guess there is a grand tradition of the 'bumbling detective' who, despite being a complete idiot, manages to stumble onto the answer and save the day. A very well known example would be the Pink Panther series, and even the Austin Powers films fall somewhat into that genre. Films of this type easily lend themselves to throwing in almost everything from the comedy cabinet, including physical comedy, comedy of errors, romantic comedy, malapropisms, twisty plots, all the way down to potty humor.
Obviously it works, since practically the same story can be used over and over again, while remaining funny and doing well at the box office. These films appeal to the silly child in us, or in you at least, since I'm far too mature to laugh at potty humor. And I've got some high quality property in Arizona I can sell you cheap...
Who's Harry Crumb falls squarely into this film category, though it definitely doesn't hit its mark as well as a Pink Panther or Austin Powers.
The late John Candy (JFK, Summer Rental, Splash) plays Harry Crumb, the third in a line of famous and brilliant detectives. Unfortunately, the line stopped before it got to Harry. Harry's grandfather founded the agency of Crumb and Crumb, and Harry's father, recognizing that his seed had fallen a very long way from the tree, wisely assigned Harry to an obscure Midwest branch office and turned the reigns of the company over to Eliot Draisen (Jeffrey Jones, Ed Wood, The Devil's Advocate, Beetlejuice).
When the daughter of friend and wealthy client P.J. Downing, played by Barry Corbin (Solo, Nothing in Common, Urban Cowboy), is kidnapped from her mud bath appointment, Eliot calls Harry back to the home office to handle the case. It eventually becomes obvious why Eliot has assigned the incompetent Harry to the case.
Though it makes little difference to Harry's already highly challenged capabilities, it turns out that kidnapping is not all that's going on. Mr. Downing's gold digging wife Helen Downing, played by Annie Potts (Toy Story 2, Toy Story, Ghostbusters), is conspiring with her sleazy lover to kill him and inherit all his money. Eliot, it turns out, has been lusting after Helen Downing ever since they went to school, and is willing to do about anything to steal her away, including kidnapping Mr. Downing's daughter.
This is why Eliot brings in Harry Crumb to handle the case. He figures that Harry can't possibly solve the case, and indeed Harry immediately decides that Helen Downing is responsible. But Helen is trying to foul up the kidnapping plot so that the kidnappers (she doesn't know its Eliot, and Eliot doesn't know she's conspiring to get that same money) can't get her husband's money before she kills him and cashes the check herself. Harry teams up with Mr. Downing's other daughter Nikki, played by Shawnee Smith (Armageddon, Leaving Las Vegas, Men), and they proceed to solve the case by accident.
A lot of the comedy muscle in this film comes from John Candy. Though it was relatively early in his film career, he had already substantially become the much beloved comedy genius that he was at the time of his early death in the late-90s. Using lots of silly costumes, accents, physical comedy, and the kind of ego that only a true idiot can support, he provides most of the laugh out loud moments.
The 1.85 anamorphic video is of reasonably high quality. The outdoor scenes are a bit soft and overexposed, but the indoor scenes look good, without distracting noise or artifacts. As seems to be the case with Columbia TriStar releases these days, it doesn't specifically say its anamorphic on the box since they all are. Columbia should be given marks for giving the anamorphic treatment to this type of film, which sadly would not have fared so well with other studios.
The audio is Dolby 2.0 and sounds good enough. There is quite a bit of scary '80s pop/rock music in the sound track all of which seemed reasonably well mixed. Vocals are forward in the mix and easy to understand. There is a little action in the surrounds, but nothing to write home about.
I have to admit that I didn't find this film very funny in this viewing. But I think its because I've seen it too many times, both straight through and in bits and pieces on satellite. I do remember finding it much funnier in early viewings, so I assume it still is funnier than it felt. Partly though it might be that some of the gags and effects are a bit rough and don't stand up as well on a large screen via DVD as they did on a 27" set via VHS. And it has a very '80s' vibe that I find unnerving in some inexplicable way.
And, just to keep my recent run consistent, it has zero extras. For this type of film I guess that's not a huge loss, but one would assume that this film probably had numerous outtakes and bloopers that would have added substantial value. The most desirable source of a commentary track, John Candy, would have been a little hard to schedule time with.
Though its not an action film, it does have lots of physical comedy and could have benefited substantially from a more elaborate, 5.1, sound track. And it could have been a little more cleanly recorded, though the audio quality limitations might have been in the original material in this case.
If you like John Candy, and who doesn't, or are a fan of the bumbling detective genre, this disc is well worth a rental, though probably not a purchase (unless it happens to be cult favorite of yours.) The lack of extras also reduces its purchase potential. Though it's hardly an outstanding example of DVD technology, its a funny flick good for light entertainment and a few belly laughs, and it does have a substantial number of subtitle languages.
Acquitted, with a stern admonition for lack of extras.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13