Warner Bros. // 1990 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 20th, 2006
The bank robbery was easy.
Getting out of New York is a nightmare.
A return-to-form of sorts for actor/comedian Bill Murray, Quick Change came off the heels of the disappointing big budget sequel Ghostbusters II and the critically panned Christmas flick Scrooged. Co-directed by Howard Franklin (who also helmed the horrid Murray vehicle Larger Than Life) and Bill Murray, Quick Change finally finds its way onto DVD care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Grimm (Bill Murray, Ghostbusters, Rushmore) is a fed up city planner who has devised what he thinks is the perfect bank heist. Along with his girlfriend, Phyllis (Geena Davis, TV's Commander In Chief), and their slow but devoted childhood friend Loomis (Randy Quaid, National Lampoon's Vacation), Grimm plans to snag as much cash as he can and head to Fiji for a lifetime of rest and relaxation. But Grimm and his cohorts soon learn that just when you think you have the perfect plan, life can throw you a massive curve ball. Although the ingenious bank heist goes off without a hitch, Grimm finds that getting out of New York City will be the hardest part of their criminal careers.
Slowed down by weirdo cabdrivers (Tony Shaloub, Men In Black and TV's Monk), an anal retentive bus driver (the wonderful Philip Bosco, Nobody's Fool), an obsessed detective on their tail (the late Jason Robards, Parenthood), and a host of other zany big city characters, Grimm, Loomis, and Phyllis find that a Quick Change in the Big Apple can be a hard thing to come by.
Quick Change may be one of Bill Murray's finest hours. The film is a little-seen comedic gem that is filled with wit, goofiness, and unabashed adult silliness. The opening scene says it all: Murray, dressed to the hilt as a clown, enters a bank with a batch of balloons and a gun smuggled in his oversized coat. Upon his encounter with an elderly security guard (played to perfection by comedian Chris Elliot's father, Bob Elliot) and brandishing a body strapped with explosives, Murray's character is asked just what kind of clown he is. "The crying on the inside kind, I guess," Murray responds. It's a moment that can only be delivered by a seasoned actor who knows what this character is all about.
The movie is littered with moments like this. They are the bread and butter of Quick Change and they are what makes the film worth seeing. While the opening bank robbery is cleverly executed -- Murray, Davis, and Quaid are all pitch-perfect in their roles -- it's really the character interactions that sell this film. Although we never quite know the circumstances surrounding Grimm and Loomis's relationship (they were childhood friends, but Loomis is terrified of the seemingly docile Grimm hitting him), it's enough to open up doors to many funny situations and exchanges. Their relationship with each other (and Davis), as well as the outside world of New York City provides some rare moments of top-notch comedic hilarity (when Loomis asks if that was their plane flying over their heads as they wander on the city streets aimlessly, Phyllis sighs, "No, if it were our plane it would be crashing.")
As if the three main performances weren't enough, the supporting characters are quirkily likable. Tony Shaloub -- long before he became a higher profile actor in such fare as Thirteen Ghosts and Galaxy Quest -- pulls off one of the funniest cab drivers this side of Latka from Taxi. Philip Bosco's irate bus driver ("Do you have exact change?") has little screen time but makes a big impression -- his interaction with Grimm is pure gold.
Bill Murray is one of the only actors to come out of the 1980s (mostly) unscathed. While he's made a few stinkers in his career, generally his track record has been solid. It's sad that the same can't be said for Dan Aykroyd, Rick Moranis, Eddie Murphy, and my personal favorite, Chevy Chase. Although film historians might point towards Rushmore as the film that marked Murray's career turning point, I'd be more inclined to say Quick Change was when he started his new direction (proof: the next four years brought us the vastly different Groundhog Day, Mad Dog & Glory, and Ed Wood).
For some reason I'm finding it hard to put into words why Quick Change is so funny. The best I can tell you is to rent (or even buy) the movie and see for yourself. It sounds a bit clichéd, but this film truly is one of the best undiscovered comedies of the 1990s.
Quick Change is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer on this film is very good. Warner has made sure that the image is free of must defects, including any major dirt, grain or other imperfections that would otherwise mar the image. Colors are bright and solid while the black levels are dark and well rendered. Aside of a few brief moments of edge enhancement (hardly noticeable in a few scenes), this is a great looking transfer considering it's well over fifteen years old.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround. Well, it would have been nice to have had a 5.1 Surround mix on this film, but considering the genre -- a rather front heavy comedy -- it's not surprising that this track is rather flat and uninspired. There is little in the way of surround sounds and directional effects aside of the front side speakers (which utilize the oldies/pop songs on the soundtrack). Otherwise, hiss and distortion are kept to a bare minimum. Also included on this disc is a French Dolby audio mix as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Considering the film ended up being delayed by about half a year, I am surprised to find this disc void of any extra features, save for a single theatrical trailer. This is a real shame; Murray's involvement in a commentary track or a retrospective featurette would have been a real treat.
A very funny movie gets a very boring DVD edition. While I wasn't expecting this to be a jam-packed three disc set, I know fans of the film will be disappointed that Warner didn't do more with this little comedic gem. As it stands I'm happy to see that the film is at least finally available in its original widescreen aspect ratio.
This is a very funny Bill Murray movie worth any comedy lover's time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer