Sunday 6 January 2019

Movie Review: Brewster's Millions (1985)

A flimsy comedy, Brewster's Millions introduces a nonsensical premise and proceeds to botch the execution.

In New Jersey, Monty Brewster (Richard Pryor) is the none-too-bright relief pitcher for the Hackensack Bulls. He is shocked to inherit $300 million from a recently deceased great uncle. But he can only claim the inheritance if he spends an initial $30 million in one month without accumulating assets and without telling anyone why he is spending all the money, among other restrictions. Monty accepts the challenge, and his extravagant spending bewilders his friend Spike Nolan (John Candy), the Bulls catcher.

The law firm administering the inheritance appoints paralegal Andrea (Lonette McKee) to keep track of the spending, as well as her fiancé Warren (Stephen Collins) to secretly ensure Monty fails. Monty arranges a friendly baseball game with the New York Yankees, and enters the race for Mayor of New York City, although he encourages everyone to vote for None of the Above.

Based on a novel written in 1902, Brewster's Millions fails miserably in overcoming the plot's inherent wackiness. Why Monty needs to spend $30 million to inherit $300 million is poorly explained, as are all the clumsy rules placed around his spending. And since there appears to be nothing preventing Monty from immediately hiring people to do next to nothing and paying them ridiculous salaries, with minimal fuss he could hire 100 people at $10,000 a day and cruise his way to his inheritance.

Instead, the lame script has Monty running around in a state of constant uncoordinated panic, never once pausing to think. It's all in search of madcap comedy, but director Walter Hill, given too much money and placed in charge of the wrong genre, fails to deliver a single laugh. Hill fills the screen with people milling around Brewster as his celebrity status grows, except that no one actually does anything that makes sense.

With the film devoid of ideas, the 100 minutes feel like the entire month of Monty's imbecility, and the barely coherent side quests into the mayoralty race and the baseball game grow like unwanted weeds and choke the main storyline. The would-be romance between Monty and Andrea never comes close to sparking.

The film is clearly intended to replicate Eddie Murphy's success from Trading Places, here with Richard Pryor as the simple black man suddenly coming into a world of wealth. But Monty is not street smart, he is simply not smart, and Pryor does not come close to saving the material, tackling the wit-free script with a singular expression. John Candy is sharper as the befuddled friend, while Pat Hingle, Jerry Orbach and Hume Cronyn are given little to do in support.

Even with millions to play with, Brewster's Millions cannot spend its way to decent entertainment.

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