50/50 Review #8: Ruthless People.

I knew nothing about this film until soon before watching it. I must say, I did go into it with some intrigue. It has a pretty fantastic premise. Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) is a business tycoon who wants to kill his wife, Barbara (Bette Midler), in order to get her share of the inheritance. But he quickly finds that she has been kidnapped by married couple Ken (Judge Reinhold) and Sandy (Helen Slater), who want revenge for Sam stealing Sandy's idea. Unfortunately, Sam's mistress Carol (Anita Morris) doesn't think much of Sam's plan, so hires the inept Earl (Bill Pullman) to gain proof of murder, but ends up falling into a mess of miscommunication and mistakes.

It's a movie with a lot of potential. Let's start with the story. Directed by the guys who gave us Naked Gun and Airplane!, there was a big chance of some quirky humor. And it was there--but it was more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny. It never really took itself beyond its premise. Granted, it's a pretty good premise, but it could have been more than just that. There is a serial killer subplot that is woven into the plot, but it's not very strongly developed.

The cast had some strong potential, too. And I think we get it here. DeVito does what he does best--a slimeball. You can't help but root for Reinhold and Slater as the likeable couple. Bette Midler was great, too. She starts off kind of annoying, but there's a turning point later in the film where she comes around and gives some good comedy. I was surprised to learn that this was Bill Pullman's first film (and even moreso that Spaceballs, arguably his finest film, is only his second). His character is a bit wasted, though, always giving more attention to Anita Morris in their scenes, who is probably the weakest part of the film.

I know this is probably sounding like a pretty negative review. I honestly don't mean it to. Like I said, the best word to describe it is amusing. The actors do fine, and there's nothing inherently wrong with the film. The one-note joke is stretched pretty thin by the end, since that's the only thing the film attempts to have going for it. But, as I said, it's a good joke and makes for an entertaining 90 minutes.

I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Forgot to mention, it has a fun and unique opening title sequence, too. Just thought I'd throw that in there, as well.)


  1. Finally, Nolahn's Month has come to the Demented Doorknob, and we're off with... what? Methinks you were channeling Simon Cowell in this review -- I almost fell out of my chair when you gave it the McLovin.

    Thing is, I don't disagree with much of what you wrote, though I LOVE the premise and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that pretty much everyone EXCEPT the kidnappers was a scumbag. And I still laugh out loud at certain parts, like Sam handling of wrong numbers. Sure, there's not a lot to Bill Pullman's character, but as "The Stupidest Man Alive," he does't have to do much.

    Believe it or not, I didn't know that this film was from ZAZ until after I put it down for the 50/50. I almost wish you hadn't found out until afterwards, too -- living up to AIRPLANE! and THE NAKED GUN is a tall order.

  2. I can mark it up to being in a foul mood at the time of watching it, too. I believe I had just finished reading the last Hunger Games book and was super pissed off while watching.

    I figured out it was ZAZ, obviously, from the opening credits. But it doesn't matter either way. I've not seen Naked Gun, and I've only seen a scene or two from Airplane.

  3. This is THE ultimate film of misunderstandings. Every plan in this film goes wrong, and in an absolutely spectacular fashion.


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