Let us pause for a moment, and remember Dudley Moore. No, not the Dudley Moore that made dreadful films such as Like Father, Like Son. Let's remember the Moore that gave us Bedazzled and Micki + Maude. That will make the memories all the more sweeter.
With those memories in mind, we can take a look at Crazy People, which falls somewhere between those two ends of the spectrum. If you've seen How to Get Ahead in Advertising, you know that the advertising world is ripe for parody, and this movie gets off to a good start. Moore's Emory Leeson loses his mind under the stress of being an ad exec, and begins to create honest ads that are downright obscene. Through one of those wacky movie contrivances, they also work, speaking to consumers plainly.
The hilarious and dark comedy that fills the fake ads in this movie make you think a wild, ribald movie is lying ahead of you. Unfortunately, there's some axe-grinding to be done, in defense of the mentally handicapped, along with an unnecessary romantic subplot with Darryl Hannah's not-so-mental patient character. With the focus turned on those angles, the truly interesting part of the movie gets buried and eventually forgotten, as what was parody devolves into a rather standard, and previously told story.
Looking past the story, Crazy People had all the right ingredients to make a great movie. Moore and Hannah are surrounded with a wonderful ensemble cast, including David Paymer, JT Walsh, Mercedes Ruehl, Paul Reiser, Alan North and Paul Bates. With so many quality actors, fortunately the writer spread the witty dialogue liberally, and most everyone has their moment in the sun. There's something special about hearing a Japanese guy sit behind the wheel of a car and say "Time to run down some Caucasians." It's not Shakespeare, but it works.
Of course, you can't make a film about "crazy people," without some thought being given to how they are portrayed. In this film, they're all pretty much one-note nuts, but it is a comedy. The storyline attempts to humanize their conditions, and speak out on behalf of the mentally ill, but in the end trivializes it to some extent. It probably would have been better to just accept them at face value, and not inject any kind of cause into the story.
Sure, the ending is a bit ridiculous, and the story meanders to its textbook conclusion, but there's a lot of fun to be had along the way. If only this film had enough of a following to warrant a big-time DVD. As it is, you'll have to make due with a budget-priced, widescreen version. That's better than nothing.
The DVD has static menus, with two audio soundtracks, 2.0 and 5.1, and optional English subtitles. There are scene selections available, with the 90-minute film divided into 14 lengthy sections, with a name and still from the scene provided for each.
Shot in 1.85:1, and presented in anamorphic widescreen, this DVD is probably the first time most people will see this film in its original aspect ratio. The video is clean and clear, with great detail for the age of the movie. The transfer is a bit dark in regards to fleshtones, but overall, it's right for the film.
On the down side, there's a lot of dirt and grain visible, but considering this is a bare-bones catalog release of a low-profile flick, this wasn't a likely candidate for a restoration job. There's also haloing in high-contrast areas, particularly at the beginning, in city skyline shots.
Through a set-up screen, you have a soundtrack choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1. This isn't the kind of film where you're going to see a huge difference between the options, with the center channel devoted to the dialogue, and ambient sound and music filling the sides and back.
Extras? Paramount doesn't speak that language when it comes to their catalog releases. There's not even a trailer, which is a shame, since some dialogue changed from the trailer to the finished film. And considering this film is R rated, there has to be some footage that was used for TV edits.
More importantly, production on this film was started with screenwriter Mitch Markowitz as director and John Malkovich in the Dudley Moore role. One wonders if there was some film from the first few days that could have been put on this disc, and if it was just left off. Unfortunately, with no extras provided, we don't know.
Crazy People is not the greatest film. Hell, it's not even the best Dudley Moore film. But it's a solid '80s film (with the unfortunate fate to be released in 1990.) Like the psychiatric patients in the movie, the film has a split personality, with the darkly comic advertising moments hitting their marks, the romantic comedy coming up short and the social commentary flopping back and forth. This film has a great cast and some solid writing that holds up nearly 15 years later. Released at the right price, this is one of those movies you can sit down and watch just about anytime. If you remember it, it's worth buying, and if you've never seen it, check it out.
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Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.