Tag Archives: Rodney Dangerfield

Back to School (1986)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rodney goes to college.

Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) is a successful businessman who runs a national chain of clothing stores despite having never attained a degree. Now his son Jason (Keith Gordon) is attending a university, but he feels like dropping out. Thornton though doesn’t want to let him, so he decides to attend college with him in order to inspire him to remain in school.

The film would’ve been far more interesting had Rodney been poor and struggling to better himself by finally going back to school, which is much more relatable since many adults do this all the time. Making him already wealthy saps the potential drama and reality right out of the story making it more like a game that he is playing with no real consequence. He doesn’t even take any of his studying seriously, so the idea that he is at least broadening his intellect fails here too. The side-story dealing with him being a world class diver is equally ridiculous as this out-of-shape, beer guzzling, 65-year-old man looks like someone who would barely be able to run half a block before dropping dead of a heart attack let alone achieving any sort of complex dive that no one else could do.

Casting Adrienne Barbeau as his shrewish wife was a mistake as she lacks comic ability making the barbs that she trades with him unfunny and what’s a young and beautiful woman doing married to a homely dope like Rodney anyways? Okay, so Rodney’s character here has money and that’s why she married him, but that plays completely against his stand-up persona where he portrayed himself as being this loser that got no respect. The wife should’ve been a female version of Rodney looks-wise while also a nag and thus heightening the stakes for the character to go back to school and succeed. Having him later fall in love with his beautiful English professor played by Sally Kellerman makes even less sense as the two had intellectually nothing in common.

Keith Gordon is boring as Rodney’s son and having the story go off on a tangent dealing with his romance with a pretty coed (Terry Farrell) is derivative and should’ve been avoided as the film is only amusing when Rodney is in it and dull otherwise. Gordon also looks nothing like Rodney and it’s confusing why exactly he’s not ‘fitting-in’. Casting some fat, bulging eyed guy to play a young version of Rodney would’ve been funnier while also making his social ostracism more understandable.

Burt Young’s character adds to the already weird quasi-surreal atmosphere by playing Rodney’s chauffer who despite being out-of-shape, short and middle-aged just like Rodney he somehow also possess super human strength and able to beat-up and even intimidate much younger, more muscular guys. It was like there was no motivation at all by the writers to actually tell a story that made sense and they were simply throwing in any gag that they thought up and hoping some would stick.

Robert Downey Jr. as an eccentric socialist student was the only supporting character I liked, but he is not in it enough. The script should’ve had him rooming with Rodney and examining how these two very different personalities could get along while getting rid of the son character completely. Then we might’ve had a character driven comedy that was worth watching. The film though as it gets done here is too transparent and despite being filmed on-location at the University of Wisconsin in Madison poorly reflects the actual college experience and will remind no one that has attended college of what college life is really like.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 13, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Alan Metter

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube.

Ea$y Money (1983)

easy money

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

Rated R

Director: James Signorelli

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray