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Case Number 06035: Small Claims Court

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Foul Play

Paramount // 1978 // 116 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // January 24th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Naugle just loves those beaver traps.

The Charge

"Beware of the dwarf!"

The Case

Foul Play is a movie with a plot that seems almost inconsequential to describe. The film revolves around Gloria (Goldie Hawn, The First Wives Club), a shy librarian who needs to be "willing to take a chance again" on love (or so the theme song says). When Gloria decides to pick up a motorist with car troubles, she makes a movie date that ends with his death and a final, chilling warning: "Beware of the dwarf!" This event propels Gloria into the middle of a chaotic conspiracy that will involve an albino, a sex-crazed symphony director, a bumbling cop, a dwarfish Bible salesman, a scar-faced villain, the Catholic church, and a pack of cigarettes containing the key to the entire mystery. Are you ready to take a chance on Foul Play?

Foul Play is one of those little '70s movies that isn't so much remembered because of its content but because of its history. The film is most notable for being Chevy Chase's first big screen role after his departure from Saturday Night Live. It was also the first time Chase paired up with then "it" girl Goldie Hawn (the two would star together once more in 1980's Neil Simon penned Seems Like Old Times, and reunite for the disastrous premiere of Chase's '90s talk show, The Chevy Chase Show). Foul Play tends to ramble on, attempting to be quirky where quirkiness is not always welcome, much like poor Chevy's ill-fated gabfest.

To be sure, this is one of Chase's least interesting vehicles. His mediocrity can be forgiven since this was his first major foray into movies (not that his next film, Oh, Heavenly Dog!, would be any better). The good news is that once Caddyshack and National Lampoon's Vacation hit, it was all uphill until the middle 1990s, then it was a steep plunge into the abyss. There isn't anything especially wacky or funny about Tony Carlson, except that he sometimes lets a little bit of Chase's future wackiness leak out. Goldie Hawn is all smiles and sunshine as Gloria, a woman befuddled as to why anyone would want to kill a cute little librarian.

The plot is one of those complicated capers where paying attention doesn't really pay off. In fact, this movie features characters far more interesting than its story. The best of the lot is the late Dudley Moore as a sex-crazed symphony conductor with an apartment full of so many sex toys it would make Larry Flynt blush. Character actor Brian Dennehy (F/X, Tommy Boy) stops in briefly as cantankerous Chase's co-worker, an aging but still funny Burgess Meredith (Grumpy Old Men) lights up the screen as Gloria's caring landlord, and google-eyed Don Calfa (Return of the Living Dead) creeps onto the screen as one of the requisite villains. There's also an albino and a dwarf, but I'll let you discover them for yourself.

Foul Play is entertaining and sometimes cute (I liked the expletive-filled Scrabble game played by two elderly ladies), but plods on way too long. And dear God, who thought it was a good idea to put a horribly schmaltzy Barry Manilow song over the opening credits? Goldie Hawn gets much more screen time than Chevy Chase, and probably deserves it—I'd rather watch her wiggle and bounce than an only mediocre Chevy Chase (don't worry Chevy, I still love ya!). Foul Play is worth a watch for diehard fans of Chase's work, and those who enjoy hearing Goldie's golden giggle.

Foul Play is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Paramount has made sure this transfer looks as good as possible. While there are some imperfections in the image—include a small amount of softness and some dirt in a few spots—overall I'm happy with the way this picture looks. Considering the age and budget, I think I can safely say that this is the best the movie will ever look.

The soundtrack is presented in a newly remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track in English. Hey, I am actually surprised at how good this transfer sounds. Though it's by no means Spider-Man 2, Foul Play sports a fair share of directional effects and enveloping background noises. While a lot of the mix is mostly front heavy (not surprising, considering this was made in 1978), fans should be pleased. Also included on this disc is an English Mono soundtrack as well as English subtitles.

Fans will cry "foul!" when they find out that this first ever DVD edition of Foul Play doesn't include a single extra feature.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 73

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
• Comedy
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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