By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Breaking his bad habits.
Monty Capuletti (Rodney Dangerfield) is a married man with two teenage daughters who is trying desperately to make ends meet while working as a child photographer. His oldest daughter Allison (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is set to get married to a man named Julio (Taylor Negron) that Monty does not approve of. Attending the wedding is Monty’s rich, but hateful mother-in-law (Geraldine Fitzgerald) who promptly dies on her way back home. At the reading of her will she stipulates that she will give her entire fortune to Monty, but only if he gives up all of bad habits, which includes his drinking, gambling and drug use. Monty isn’t sure he can do it, but his eager family members try to coach him into trying.
This was Rodney’s first starring vehicle after his breakout success in Caddyshack, but the script doesn’t take advantage of his comic ability. The opening sequence in which the viewer gets an understanding of the character’s personality visually by having the camera pan through his cluttered work area is great and probably the best part of the whole movie, but trying to confine his edgy persona into the sterile role of a suburban dad isn’t effective. His wife, played by Candice Azzara, is much too young and good looking a woman and would typically be way out of his league. His daughters are also too attractive and he was already in his 60’s at the time, which made him much better suited for a grandfatherly role. A much funnier plot would’ve had him stuck with his adult daughters still living at home because they were too ugly to find suitors and his desperate attempts to con someone into marrying them just so he could get rid of them and be able to enjoy his ‘golden years’ in peace.
The script is limp and doesn’t get going with its main premise until the second half with the first part dealing with the daughter’s on-again, off-again relationship with her new husband that goes nowhere and seems added in solely to pad the running time. The idea of Monty having to give up his bad habits is poorly thought out as well as there is no third party coming in to observe that he sticks with it, or hidden cameras placed somewhere to monitor him. It leaves everything up to his family members to ‘keep him on track’ even though they could’ve lied and covered up for him and his ability to cheat at any time was wide open.
The film also does not take enough advantage of the jokes that it does have. One scene has him, in a bout of frustration, swearing at a fat kid that is not behaving, but the camera never cuts back to the parent’s shocked expression, which would’ve been the best part. Another segment has Julio and his friend trying to sneak into Rodney’s house late at night in an attempt to win back Allison, but in the process they snap off the power lines connected to the home and knock out the electricity yet the film never gets the response of the rest of the household when this occurs and instead quickly cuts away and never comes back to it making it seem almost like it never happened. Last, but not least is a scene where Rodney gets an exercise bike for Christmas and tries it out only for him to go crashing into the Christmas tree and hitting his head against the window and yet no one jumps up to see if he is alright even though I would think that would be the most natural response for someone, especially family members, to do.
There is also a scene involving drunk driving, which I found interesting only because 5 years later the movie License to Drive also had a similar scene, but in that one it was somehow considered more controversial and labeled in bad taste even though the scene here I thought was worse because it was done by the main characters, or in this case Joe Pesci who plays Rodney’s best friend.
The segment where Rodney gets shot in the buttocks and forced to hang in midair at the hospital while his injuries are allowed to heal is quite funny as is the scene involving male runway models showing off Rodney’s latest ‘regular guy’ fashions, but outside of these two segments the film falls flat in a script that never gains any traction and is wildly unfocused. Billy Joel of all people sings the film’s title tune in a song that is catchy, but I’ve never heard played on the radio even though all the rest of his tunes seemingly are.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: August 19, 1983
Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes
Director: James Signorelli
Studio: Orion Pictures
Available: DVD, Blu-ray