Other People's Money
1991 Directed by Norman Jewison. Starring Danny Devito, Penelope Ann Miller, Gregory Peck, Dean Jones, Piper Laurie.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Oct. 25, 1991
A would-be satire about high finance and greed in the age of Reagan, Other People's Money is predictably limp; it doesn't have the cutthroat ambition of the Boeskys and Millikens who personified Wall Street during the 1980s. Pitting a ruthless New York investment firm against a faltering New England wire and cable business that looks better dead than alive on paper, Alvin Sargent's screenplay (based on a successful off-Broadway play of the same name) sets up a philosophic battle between two diametrically opposed notions of making money: the traditional American work ethic versus capitalism in a moral vacuum. Ultimately, however, most of the battle in this movie turns out to be one between the sexes, as DeVito and Miller -- an unlikely pair -- square off in a corporate takeover fight and find themselves aroused by the art of the deal in more ways than one. It's not until the near-end of Other People's Money that its thematic focus becomes clear again. There, at the stockholders' meeting which will decide the fate of the company, Peck -- perfect in a role calling for old-fashioned integrity -- and DeVito give impassioned but disparate speeches about what it's all about. As the pint-sized Larry the Liquidator, DeVito is pretty funny when called upon to convey unapologetic avarice. (He's so mean that he literally sucks the life out of a cigarette, rather than the other way around.) The credibility problem comes when the script asks him to be warm and cuddly, in what appears to be an attempt to make his character more palatable. All moralizing aside, given the adverse repercussions of last decade's Wall Street joyride being felt today, it's tough to find any sympathy for a corporate raider, even if he is played by someone as talented as DeVito.