Forgotten Friday Flick – “Ruthless People”

With the consensus on last week’s past picture selection featuring the wacky wares of the jerky Judge Reinhold being positive, why not keep his everyman appeal going by saluting even more of his meaty comical fare – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick!  This week it’s time to get down and dirty for a black comedy filled with lust, laughs and ludicrous lads and ladies abound.  Seems a high-class woman has been kidnapped and her rich husband will do anything NOT to get her back – a modern marriage to truly admire!  Scheming millionaires, shrill housewives, honest electronics salesmen, fashion designers turned criminals, wide-eyed serial killers, two timing mistresses and the stupidest person on the face of the earth are all in their own way…Ruthless People!

Sam Stone is a rich man who hates his wife Barbara.  And he doesn’t just not like her, he loathes her, despises her and has a plan to rid himself of her once and for all.  But when he comes home ready to do the deed and finds his beloved has been kidnapped for ransom, Sam sees a way out.  He screams loud and proud after being asked to not involve the authorities and crosses his fingers that the kidnappers are people of their word.  Problem is the perpetrators of the crime are inexperienced newbies in way over their heads and both they and the unsuspecting Sam are about to be taught a lesson via the spirited Barbara in being truly ruthless.

Vague perhaps, but there are some wonderfully dark twists and turns within the story of Ruthless People that add extra entertaining complexity – a rare thing for a funny film.  But the solid script via writer Dale Launer (yes, he of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and My Cousin Vinny fame!) isn’t afraid to shake up the side-splitting status quo by matching love-to-hate characters with outlandish situations that go severely out on a limb…and then some.  It’s also a particular specialty of the Airplane team of David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams, all directing here, who pair their rapid fire laugh cannon with Launer’s caustic comedy story sensibility for a flick that’s both funny and cringe worthy at the same time.  Not that their signature silliness is not on full display with sight gags (the pint size family dog Muffy falls victim to a lot of mayhem!), quotable quotes (“I’ve been kidnapped by Huey and Dewey!”) and fun film asides galore (love the colorful opening title sequence!), but Launer’s script grounds the normally wacky hijinks of the trio and brings them into a more cynical style of satire.

But of course it’s the cast of misfits and deviants that make the film truly ruthless and a more solid gang you could not find.  Mix together a scathing Danny DeVito as the vulgar Sam (makes his Taxi character Louie De Palma look like a softy!), the brash Bette Midler as his unstable wife, the good-natured Judge Reinhold (love the selling speakers scene!) and Helen Slater as the two hapless kidnappers, the sassy Anita Morris as DeVito’s mistress, the wide-eyed J.E. Freeman as a creepy killer and top it off with a career making turn by the always under-appreciated Bill Pullman as Morris’s dim male lackey and you got a cast that far exceeds the gut-busting gravitas of the story itself.  (A feat indeed!)

Being that the film came out in the 80’s era of soundtrack heavy outings, the flick also has some additional cool cred via the likes of Mick Jagger (title song no less!) and Billy Joel (his Modern Woman is Midler’s anthem!) on board, but it’s all icing on the comedy cake for this one.  A sensationally caustic script, finely executed performances and all under the watchful eyes of a directing trio that frankly made comedy feel fresh again, the only thing badder than the cutthroat characters of Ruthless People is the five-star flick it turned out to be.


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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