(director: Arthur Hiller; screenwriters: Jeff (J.J.) Abrams/Jill Mazursky; cinematographer: David M. Walsh; editor: William Reynolds; music: Stewart Copeland; cast: Charles Grodin (Spencer Barnes), James Belushi (Jimmy), Ann DeSalvo (Debbie Lipton), Loryn Locklin (Jewel), Stephen Elliott (Walther Bentley), Hector Elizondo (Warden), Veronica Hamel (Elizabeth), Mako (Sakamoto), Thom Sharp (Mike), Gates McFadden (Diane), Marte Boyle Slout (Brenda); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Geoffrey Taylor; Hollywood Pictures; 1990)

A buddy movie rip-off of Trading Places.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A buddy movie rip-off of Trading Places. The slight comedy is funny in spots, but is too dumb in its entirety. The tired direction of Arthur Hiller (“Plaza Suite”/”Love Story“) and the silly screenplay by J. J. Abrams and Jill Mazursky (daughter of executive producer Paul Mazursky) leave a lot to be desired.

An imprisoned career car thief jailbird and big Cubs fan, Jimmy (James Belushi), escapes from his minimum-security prison to see the World Series in LA between the Angels and his Cubs. The buttoned-up yuppy ad-man, Spencer Barnes (Charles Grodin), is sent by his bossy heart-attack recovering boss Walter (Stephen Elliott) to LA to close a deal with a Japanese food company headed by Sakamoto (Mako) and is promised a promotion if successful. The rattled Spencer tries to shake loose in LA from his clinging, talkative former high school classmate, Debbie Lipton (Ann DeSalvo), who sat next to him on the flight and won’t let go of him upon landing even though made aware that he’s a happily married man. Further rattled over his missing luggage, Spencer loses his Filofax at the airport and everything then goes wrong with his orderly life. Jimmy finds the organizer at the airport and moves into Walter’s Malibu mansion, where the ad-man was to stay. The cheery thief uses the cash, credit cards and contacts meant for Spencer to live the good life. He also begins an affair with the boss’ vulnerable sexy daughter (Loryn Locklin), who pays him a visit to swim at the mansion. Meanwhile Spencer is mugged, beaten, jailed and left penniless, as everything he does turns bad. Not willing to give up on his weekend assignment, Spencer contacts Debbie for help and gets driven around by the woman he can’t stomach. Things turn for the worse when Jimmy is mistaken for Spencer by the firm’s handlers assigned to be with Spencer as he tries to close the deal. When the fake Spencer blows the ad pitch to Sakamoto, the shit hits the fan and he’s fired. Finally Spencer’s concerned wife (Veronica Hamel) arrives and she meets Jewel at the mansion, where the two try and figure out what’s up with the Spencer they think they know. Meanwhile the foes meet and take in the World Series together and surprisingly bond. It leads to an absurd happy ending with the message that ‘if the Cubs could win the World Series, anything is possible.’ The banal movie can only go so far with its unrealistic premise about loss of identity before it collapses from stupidity and loses any cuteness it might have previously gained through sheer luck.

REVIEWED ON 9/14/2017 GRADE: C+   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/