By Richard Winters
My Rating: 2 out of 10
4-Word Review: Caught up in espionage.
Gene Wilder plays a man by the name of Michael Jordon, yes Michael Jordon, who is from Chicago, but staying in New York. He shares a cab ride with Janet Dunn (Kathleen Quinlan) who seems to be on the run from someone and insists that she must mail a secret package, which Michael does for her. Later he tries to visit her in her hotel room, but it finds her dead and everyone thinks he’s the one who killed her. Now he is on the run himself from people he doesn’t even know and when he bumps into Kate (Gilda Radner) she agrees to help him, but for reasons that she does not initially divulge.
I was genuinely shocked and rather disappointed to find how very similar this storyline was to many of Wilder’s earlier efforts. In Silver Streak he played a man wrongly accused of murder, but there it was fresh and funny. A few years later he was in Stir Crazy with the same type of scenario, but it still worked. Yet by this time it’s old and clichéd with Wilder typecast in a role that no longer offers him anything new to add to it. You get the feeling like you’ve seen it all before right from the start and this tired formula should’ve been put-to-sleep long ago.
Radner’s presence is especially boring and she doesn’t have a single funny line in the whole thing. The reason for why her character decides to get involved in Wilder’s quandary is contrived and seems to be constantly changing. The two show no chemistry even though they fell in love with each other behind-the-scenes and later married. The role was originally intended for Richard Pryor who would’ve been better, but even pairing Wilder with Quinlan’s character could’ve been an improvement as the two had much better contrasting personalities.
The entire plot gets badly overblown and the nonstop chases soon become tiring and nonsensical. The humorous premise of a regular guy suddenly getting caught up in a spy game he knows nothing about loses its focus when he becomes too quick-on-his-feet in his responses to things and begins behaving more like a seasoned spy than an average-joe. The film’s only good moment is when the two are stuck in a small engine plane where the pilot dies and they’re forced to land it themselves, which gives Gene ample opportunity to go into one of his hyper rants as well as some great aerial views of the Grand Canyon, which are nice, but everything else in the film falls flat.
My Rating: 2 out of 10
Released: June 4, 1982
Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes
Director: Sidney Poitier
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube