THE THIEF WHO CAME TO DINNER
(director: Bud Yorkin; screenwriters: Walter Hill/based on the novel by Terrence Lore Smith; cinematographer: Philip Lathrop; editor: John C. Horger; music: Henry Mancini; cast: Ryan O’Neal (Webster), Jacqueline Bisset (Laura) Warren Oates (Dave Reilly), Austin Pendleton (Zukovsky), Jill Clayburgh (Jackie), Charles Cioffi (Henderling), Ned Beatty (Deams); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Bud Yorlin; Tandem/Warner; 1973)
“A mild, inconsequential episodic caper comedy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A mild, inconsequential episodic caper comedy, involving a computer expert who becomes a jewel thief robbing upscale homes. It’s based on the novel by Terrence Lore Smith. Director Bud Yorkin(“Twice in a Lifetime”/”Start The Revolution Without Me“/”Inspector Clouseau“) has a heavy hand for comedy, and butchers this pic despite trying so hard. Writer Walter Hill has a flare for writing listless scripts. Here he saddles the tedious comedy further with a complex plot, that’s unwarranted.
Houston-based computer analyst Webster ( Ryan O’Neal) moonlights as a jewel thief, for some reason I can’t recall. His M.O. is to leave a chess piece at the crime scene. Webster tells us that he does so because “Throughout the ages great minds have turned to chess — Napoleon, Da Vinci and Cromwell. It goes hand-in-hand with a lust for greatness.”
Impoverished society matron Laura (Jacqueline Bisset) becomes Webster’s hot girlfriend for a reason I can’t believe, after he meets her at a dinner party in her run-down mansion. The supporting actors try to give the pic some meat and do so, even if the pic still remains undernourished despite their valiant efforts. As serious-minded Reilly (Warren Oates) is appealing as the bemused and wry humored probing insurance investigator, who suspects our boy is a thief and sets a trap for him. While Zukovsky (Austin Pendleton) is a goof as the befuddled chess editor at The Houston Chronicle, who seems like he’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Other cast members in forgettable roles include: Ned Beatty, as a Houston jewel fence; Jill Clayburgh, as O’Neal’s jealous first wife; and Charles Cioffi, as the magnate who O’Neal blackmails to get invites into society homes. The film might still amuse some even if it generates few laughs and shows no moves to greatness..
REVIEWED ON 12/27/2015 GRADE: C+