Judge Cynthia Boris thinks the only thing funny about this movie is...no wait, there's nothing funny about this movie.
Do You Take the Money…And RUN…?
My mother taught me the term "Found Money"—basically, money you didn't expect to receive and thus free to be spent on frivolous things (as opposed to the gas bill or underwear). Winning the lottery is found money. Finding a dollar on the ground is literally found money. Earnings from Internet survey sites are found money. Found money is a wonderful thing. Funny Money, on the other hand, not so much.
Facts of the Case
Henry Perkins (Chevy Chase, Caddyshack) is a creature of habit. Every day he packs a Bumble Bee tuna fish sandwich in his nondescript brown briefcase and takes the train to the wax fruit factory where his efforts are unappreciated. Once a week he visits a couples' counselor because his wife thinks their marriage problems are a result of Henry's inflexibility. But that all changes when Henry accidentally switches briefcases with a Romanian mobster on the subway. When he discovers his briefcase inexplicably contains five million dollars in cash and bonds, what does upstanding Henry do? He decides to take the money and run.
Easier said than done.
Add to the story two well-meaning friends (Christopher McDonald, The Perfect Storm and Alex Meneses, Selena), a dirty cop (Armand Assante, Gotti), a bumbling cop, a cabbie, a boss, an art gallery owner with a love of sex toys, a house full of party guests, and a team of mob hitmen and you have…well, frankly, you have a mess.
This poorly titled flick is actually based on a successful play by British playwright Ray Cooney. It was written as a farce and reminds me (in style alone) of the Tom Stoppard play, "The Real Inspector Hound." You've got one confused cop just trying to do his job in the midst of utter chaos. Henry and Carol are leaving. No, Carol's sister and brother-in-law are leaving. But she doesn't have a sister, so Gina and Vic become Leslie and Chris and Henry becomes his own twin brother because Carol's been told that her husband is dead and Chris, who is really Vic, becomes dead Henry's brother and brother-in-law but either way he's not likely to leave for Australia with only one suitcase unless he's a nudist.
You get the drift.
This movie should be funny. Chevy Chase is a funny guy, but not in this movie. In this movie he seems old and tired and really ready to just say to hell with it and move on. Penelope Ann Miller channels Joan Cusack as Henry's wife, Carol, and she manages to be the only funny person in the movie. The three top supporting actors are all experienced comedic players and the movie even features Robert Loggia as Henry's boss! So it's not a casting problem.
I think I clued into what went wrong in the behind-the-scenes featurette on the DVD. According to the "forced smile" comments of the cast, the movie was filmed in Romania for budgetary reasons and it was all downhill from there. McDonald mentions that it was extremely difficult to get the comedy right because the crew didn't laugh at the jokes since none of them understood English. That may account for the lack of comic timing in the film. There is also a funny but pathetic behind-the-scenes clip of Chevy Chase using manic arm movements to try to explain a sequence of actions to a non-English speaking extra. Apparently the gentleman, a party guest of Henry's, kept stepping in too late or too early, thus messing with Chase's timing in the scene. Perhaps this explains why Chase looks so exhausted throughout the flick.
Now let's talk music. I never knew how important music was to a movie until I watched this one. It has an ill-advised and odd sixties pop song soundtrack. It's cute and Pink Pantherish during the opening credits, but the music is wholly inappropriate when played under the comedy action sequences later in the film.
In the end, I think you have to lay it all at the feet of director Leslie Grief. He chose to go for madcap American comedy instead of farce and ended up with a film that landed halfway in between. It's not screwball enough to be madcap, and it's not droll enough to be farce.
It may be about "Money" but it's far from "Funny."
This court finds Funny Money to be guilty of grand theft! Ninety minutes of my life, stolen—just like that!
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