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CRAZY PEOPLE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Dudley Moore, Daryl Hannah, Paul Reiser, Mercedes Ruehl
Director: Tony Bill
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: None
Length: 91 Minutes
Release Date: July 6, 2004

“Let’s level. We’re America!”

“We can’t level, you crazy bastard, we’re in advertising!”

Film **

Watching something like Crazy People, and I don't mean literally, you simply can't help but wonder what exactly the makers of the movie were thinking. Why would they let a movie with so much bite, and potential for even more bite, be overtaken by sheer sappiness midway through the story?

Here you have a comedy that has individually inspired moments of gut wrenching laughs involving the outrageous limits of advertising. About midway through the movie, though, a story element appears as if it was just included at the last minute; that of a love story between two main characters that seriously feels as if was tacked on for no apparent reason other than to possibly appeal to a wider audience.

This was a staple of many wacky comedies of the late 80s and early 90s; take a wacky premise that does happen to induce many side splitting laughs and mix it in with a romantic subplot to possibly upgrade the appeal. Sometimes it worked, other times it didn't. In the case of Crazy People, it certainly doesn't work, and with obvious reason. The laughs generated by the edginess of bits in the movie are too good to be overtaken by such a weak form of story transition. A movie like this would benefit more if it stayed within its extreme comic rhythm, and possibly take it even further.

The movie starts out with so much promise, as we are introduced to advertising exec Emory Leeson (Dudley Moore). Leeson is a seasoned pro in the advertising field, but the everyday lying and superficiality of the business that he witnesses causes him to exercise some truly outrageous advertising methods, or has he calls it, leveling with the people. He goes against the wishes of his assistant, Stephen (Paul Reiser), who insists that he should think twice before going to such extremes.

How far does Leeson go in his ads, you ask? Let's put it this way, if I were to quote any of them, I'd probably be booted off this web site. Strangely enough,  the ads pay off, and the ad agency is experiencing major success for being truthful, if not questionable, in their methods of selling anything. There are only two downsides, though; Leeson has been sent to a mental ward just before the success breaks out, and his bureaucratic boss (J.T. Walsh) takes all the credit for the ads.

Once Leeson is sent to the mental ward, the movie starts to take a slow and uncalled-for detour. There, he meets the engagingly beautiful, but slightly off Kathy (Daryl Hannah). I needn't go any further to say where the story goes, because it's pretty much revealed in the last sentence. The movie does have a few more laughs to spare, as Leeson gets his fellow patients in on an ad campaign of his own, but it can't wash away the mere sappiness that dominates that remains of the movie.

Some movies do have the all around courage to stick to their guns and proceed with their dark edgy convictions. Think to any particular film by The Coen Brothers, like their recent remake of The Ladykillers. An even better example is the forgotten and ultimately overlooked 1998 gem, Very Bad Things, which was sick, depraved, but truly funny, and was all of those elements up to the end of the movie. A movie with so much comedic promise as Crazy People should've followed the same format, for it would've been in the exact same league.

I give it credit for trying, though.

Video ***

The film clearly has a bit of age to it, but Paramount's handling of the anamorphic presentation is extremely well handled. Picture clarity is up and around for just about every running minute. There's an instance or two of noticeable grain and slight softness, but nothing near distracting.

Audio **1/2

There's really nothing in the movie itself that could give off a stellar sound presentation, so the 5.1 mix does what it can with its limited resources. Dialogue delivery is indeed well delivered, as is the occasional music playback. In other words, nothing very spectacular, but it manages to get the job done in the areas it can.

Features (Zero Stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

Crazy People is momentarily funny, even gut-wrenchingly funny at times, and has the potential to be a perfectly constructed comedy. Had it not been for the fatal story flaw with the romance and all, it would've possibly been just that kind of movie.