Directed by Walter Hill
Montgomery Brewster (Richard Pryor) is a minor-league pitcher stuck on his past glory in a major league team. He believes he can still find a way back to a major league team and is convinced that this guy he’s been seeing at the last few games is a scout. Brewster is shocked to learn that this man is not a scout but rather an investigator hired by his late uncle’s estate to hunt down his last remaining air. Now Brewster with the help of his pal Spike Dolan by his side must spend away $30 million into order to get $300 million but not tell a soul what he is doing or he will lose it all.
For starters you’ve got two comedic greats in a great movie. Richard Pryor shows some real range here. At least more than I expected from him. The three movies that remain first and foremost in my mind with him are Silver Streak, Stir Crazy and See No Evil, Hear No Evil. His performance here is as good as those but in a different way. It’s light comedy with heart.
John Candy plays Brewster‘s best friend Spike Dolan. He supports Brewster always even though as per the conditions he doesn’t know what’s all going on and is more than willing to join in the fun. At the end though his character feels guilty when Brewster has managed to spend the whole $30 million. Candy was a great comedic actor. He knew just how much of what to give to make his part effective.
The late great Jerry Orbach appears as Coach Charlie Pegler. He was one of the great character actors and really does a great deal with what would have otherwise been a forgettable role as the gruff coach.
I noticed two early performances in this movie. The first was a bearded Rick Moranis who plays an impressionist hired by Brewster named Morty King. He’s hired to help Brewster lose money. I didn’t recognize him right away and his time on screen totals only two or three minutes, but he does make a good impression. Pun intended.
Lin Shaye, who is very well-known to horror movie audiences today, makes a very brief appearance as a reporter at a news conference where Brewster announces his non-campaign for mayor. I just find early roles of actors interesting.
The non-campaign in and of itself is an interesting twist. It allows for some of the lighter moments of the movie. It also helps bring the character of Brewster closer to Angela Drake (Lonette McKee). She sees him not as a jerk blowing his money but rather as a decent person who may be doing some good.
First and foremost, this movie is a great morality tale about how money doesn’t buy happiness. Uncle Rupert Horn (the great Hume Cronyn), Brewster’s previously unknown uncle, comes off in the film Brewster is shown as an old and bitter man. But as you watch the film you realize he’s old and bitter because he allowed himself to become trapped by his wealth and the whole point of this challenge to get the inheritance is for him to pass on the lesson to not let your money control you but rather you control your money.
Over the course of the film spending the money goes from being fun to being a burden. The secret becomes a significant weight for Brewster. Some try to take advantage of him. Others that he is close to or wants to be close to think he has lost his mind.
This movie is one of several versions of the 1902 book of the same name. It’s the seventh version actually. I was shocked to learn all that. I’m completely unfamiliar with the rest of the versions or even the book and now I have something(s) new to look for. This being a classic is all due not to the script or the director but to the teaming of the talents of John Candy and Richard Pryor. These two late great comedy legends were very talented and very good in everything they performed in even if what they were in wasn’t that good.
It took me about 30+ years to see this movie and I’m kind of upset with myself over that. It really is great movie with a solid cast and good performances. This 80s classic will put a smile on your face and make you feel good about the world. And we all need that. If you haven’t seen it, you definitely should.