Directed by Jonathan Lynn. Starring Kirk Douglas, Michael J. Fox, Nancy Travis, Olivia D'Abo, Ed Begley, Jere Burns, Phil Hartman. (1994, PG-13, 113 min.)
REVIEWED By Robert Faires, Fri., March 11, 1994
Greedy ain't greedy enough. Sure, this comedy from writing team Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel (A League of Their Own, Splash, City Slickers) and director Lynn (My Cousin Vinny) has some grasping, venal, dollar-signs-on-eyeballs cupidity, the kind that can make for a nasty, biting, outrageous satire of our lust for lucre. But mostly, it's demure when it comes to grabbing all the laughs it can. It repeatedly pulls back from comic opportunities to jab wicked fun at avarice in favor of following fairly nice Fox as he gets sucked into a plan to nab his uncle's riches, gets a tad greedy, then recovers his scruples. That sort of sentiment you find in all Ganz/Mandel flicks -- you can't go to one and not expect some sweet, sticky stuff -- but their usual winning formula is to take a schmaltzy premise and tart it up with tangy, irreverent jokes. Here, they take a premise that gives them free rein for their dark comic sensibility, and they glob it up with schmaltz. It's not as effective an approach. We keep waiting for all this comedic energy in cast members Hartman, Begley, Burns, Bob Balaban, Colleen Camp, and Siobhan Fallon (as the relatives after uncle Douglas's loot) to explode. But the writers and Lynn contain it, politely declining to exploit all that guffaw-getting talent. It leaves the cartoony clutch of cousins twisting in the wind (though Hartman still snares laughs by snarling about and Fallon steals some scenes as his lush wife). Overall though, you stand a better chance of seeing a wild dash for cash by hitting the Stop'n'Go when the Lotto jackpot's up to $40 million. Bless Nancy Travis; unevenness is the villain that marred So I Married an Axe Murderer (though she's as bright here as she was there). And it's the fiend that has dogged Fox his whole film career. To his credit, Fox again acts his ass off (or rather, his pants; he gives us full dorsal nudity and a good gander at his tush) and again proves himself a smart, hard-working, adventurous, damn watchable actor whose film vehicles keep ending up Edsels. A more accurate one-word title for the film might be Tame, but hey, who'd see a picture named that?