This next movie quickly became what I like to refer to as an “HBO Special”, mainly because they showed it all the damn time. 30 years ago, this week, this film brought in a nice little chunk of change. Believe it or not, this film was based off of a novel published in 1902 and there have been quite a few film adaptations. I’m not referring to the Tale of Peter Rabbit or the Hound of the Baskervilles, or even the autobiography of Helen Keller. No, I’m referring to a little story called Brewster’s Millions.
It’s interesting to go back and watch this movie. On the one hand, you witness a prolific man, arguably the greatest stand-up comedian of all-time, on the downward slope of his career. While, on the other hand, you witness another funny man on track to reaching his career peak. Richard Pryor and John Candy, two men who could almost always make me laugh, struggled their way through this ‘safe’ 80s comedy. Enjoyable to watch, but neither being utilized to their full potential.
The movie offers up a touch of that Pryor/Murphy formula that made them both famous: brash, outspoken, foul-mouthed black man makes stuffy, uptight, old white people uncomfortable; but gosh, aren’t they funny?
The plot is somewhat simple; Pryor’s character is a down-on-his-luck baseball pitcher who discovers he is a descendant of some rich old miser, played by Hume Cronyn. The old guy wants to leave his entire inheritance to Pryor, lest his law firm and estate pocket a huge percentage before divvying it up to charities. It’s a gamble, though, as Pryor must choose between a one-time payout of $1 million, or play a little game in order to inherit more. The challenge is this: Pryor must spend $30 million in 30 days in order to inherit $300 million at the end of the month. There are, of course, a few quid pro quo, which is intended to set us up for hijinks and laughter. The rules are as follows:
- At the end of 30 days, Pryor may not own any assets that weren’t already his at the start
- He may only donate 5% to charity
- He may only lose up to 5% through gambling
- If he hires someone, he must receive actual value for services rendered
- He may not buy anything with the intent of destroying it
- And, save for the lawyers who executed the will, no one may know the details of this arrangement
Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. Not when you have a best friend like John Candy around to muck things up. For example, if Pryor successfully loses money gambling, Candy turns around and invests it wisely, essentially increasing the kitty.
Pryor tries everything he can think of to spend the money within the parameters of their agreement. He hires private staff, a photographer and a driver. He hires the New York Yankees to play an exhibition game against his farm team. He even dips his toes in political waters, running a costly campaign for office. Naturally, his friends disapprove of his choices and eventually turn their backs on him. Everyone thinks he is crazy, but crazy is what Pryor does best, right?
Will he successfully complete the challenge? Is being wealthy all it’s cracked up to be? Does it even matter? Click Here to watch the original trailer for the film.
This isn’t the funniest movie ever made, but I do have fond memories of watching it as a kid. With the waxing and waning of the careers of the film’s stars, and the fact that they are both gone now, it is a nice reminder of what incredible talent these two men had. If anything, Brewster’s Millions sparked my lifelong interior monologue of what-would-I-do-if-I-won-the-lottery?
Stay tuned, for next week we delve into the world of A View To A Kill.