Treasures of Cinema That No One Cares About – “Quick Change”

I’ve been in the blogging mood lately. Don’t worry, it probably won’t last, it never does. After I got re-acquainted last week with the blogosphere, my mind just kept churning out ideas that I felt compelled to write about. One idea is being manifested right before your very eyes in this current incarnation of internet (did you know that open office doesn’t recognize internet?) words. There are all these movies that I really like but aren’t considered to be good by the mainstream world. Usually, they hold a special place in my heart-brain because they are truly flawed which is why they aren’t considered good. However, and thankfully, there are aspects of them that are truly entertaining. For the most part, I realize that these movies never could have won an Oscar of any sort or even a Golden Globe. There’s a great possibility that you’ll flat-out dislike this movie, but it might make you a more well-rounded person to hear read a compelling argument as to why another person would actually like it. It’s also possible that someone has told you that this movie sucks and when you looked it up, you saw that the world also thinks it sucks. But ya know what? Sometimes the world is f&cking wrong. The world is wrong all the time. No one liked “It’s a Wonderful Life” when it first came out but because it wasn’t properly copy-written or something, they were able to show it on TV every Christmas. Eventually, it became a beloved part of the American Christmas culture. You never know when the world is going to change for completely unexpected reasons and what was once uncool has become trendy. It’s always futily (I realize this isn’t a word, but it should be for just these occasions) wasteful to research such things, so I might as well write about it because that’s the kind of guy I am. Also, I realize that this is probably similar to The Onion’s A. V. Club “Films that Time Forgot”, but it’s also different which is good enough for me. To start off, I give you the immortal 1990 “Treasure of Cinema that No One Cares About” – “Quick Change” (you may have guessed that part from the title).
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This movie is so forgettable. Not because it’s not good, but because it seems like everyone has forgotten it or never knew it existed, or hasn’t seen it. I even forget about it sometimes, which I feel bad about. In some way, I have no idea why this movie never did better (although that goddamned poster isn’t helping things). I get inklings of what is wrong with it but they never seem substantial and I can’t lock them down. It’s not a traditional comedy in the broadest sense, but neither are other classics that frat guys have posters of up on their walls.

So, what’s so good about this movie? Well, for one – Bill “F&cking” Murray . In a rare move, Bill is given directing credit along with first time director Howard Franklin. One result is Bill playing a character that seems he either wrote himself or was improvising constantly. I’d lean towards the latter considering the crediting. It doesn’t matter, his performance is stellar – classic Bill Murray. Which is actually part of the problem. Right now, Bill Murray is getting a lot of respect because he’s doing a lot of roles that deserve respect. He’s taking on more dramatic and heavy roles; some say because he desperately wants an Oscar. Also, the real life antics of Bill Murray the man are infusing his success as an actor, like this…..and this. But that’s now. You can mix his genius comedy from “Ghostbusters” with his subtly great turn in “The Royal Tenenbaums” along with some great real life stories and you have a legend. But in the late 80′s and early 90′s things weren’t going so well. They weren’t terrible. “Scrooged” is kinda great but may end up on this list sometime. “Ghostbusters 2” kinda sucked, well, really sucked (especially compared to the first film). “What about Bob” may also make this list if it goes long enough and “Groundhog’s Day” did pretty well but I think that movie aged really well which allowed it to hold up. Basically, he wasn’t starving but if “Quick Change” came out now, I think it would be more of cult classic than it is currently. Regardless, Murray is gold in this movie. And he has a real solid/all-star supporting case.

Geena Davis as the female lead is great. This was before Geena Davis fell off the ledge of career obscurity – “Cutthroat Island” didn’t really help. Randy Quaid, does a great job in a role that he was perfectly cast for (although, his character does get slightly annoying after a while if you’re in the wrong mood – I’ve never been in this mood myself). There’s also a whole slew of other memorable performances and actors. Jason Robards (RIP) plays a curmudgeonly old man like no one else can.

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The late great Phil Hartman has a nice cameo, it doesn’t show off his prodigious skills but it’s still a good scene. Tony Shalhoub before he was the guy from “Wings” and “Monk” is cast as a foreigner that doesn’t speak any English. I get the feeling his character wouldn’t be viewed today as politically correct and was probably teetering on the line when the movie came out. The always  and ever talented Stanley Tucci also shares a scene with Murray. Tucci plays a character who’s stupider than his usual fare but, hey, it’s Stanley Tucci. Finally, and lastly, you have Kurtwood Smith playing an asshole – I’d say more but it would kinda be a spoiler. Smith will always be the bad guy from Robocop to me. I realize the younger generation knows him as Eric Forman‘s dad from That 70′s Show ….. but who cares about them really?
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I always thought the script was very original and creative, although it does become hard to evaluate the story independently from Murray’s tour de force of a performance. Basically, Grimm (Murray) is robbing a bank and he’s taking Phyllis (Davis) and Loomis (Quaid – shouldn’t Quaid always play a character named Loomis?) along for the ride. Hard ass Chief Rotzinger (Robards) assigns himself the task of first negotiating with Grimm and then tracking him down after they escape while remorsefully looking over a career that didn’t amount to what he wanted. (Spoiler Alert?) They quickly and smartly escape from the bank within the first half hour. From there the trio is just trying to escape New York, but the city ends up consuming them in over-the-top comical ways. Grimm has planned out the heist perfectly, but one thing after another prevents them from arriving at their destination. From the street signs that no longer exist because of construction, to being held up, to the paranoid yuppies with a gun (including Hartman), to the cab driver that doesn’t speak English (Shalhoub), mobsters (Tucci among others), and finally the jerk bus driver that won’t deviate from his schedule or system.

Each little challenge is an opportunity for Grimm to prove that he is both smarter than everyone and can talk himself out of anything. In each instance, Murray seems to have at least two lines that are undeniably funny and two more that are subtly sneaky funny. I guess the big issue with the movie is that it lacks cohesion. Even though plot lines are built up and developed throughout the whole movie, each piece seems like its own separate vignette. This is probably due to the director never having filled that role before and having a lead actor that essentially took over scenes. What made it great (Murray’s acting) is also its biggest weakness (Murray taking too much control) and I think people have dismissed the movie because of it. Also, nothing else really stands out about the movie. The script is good enough that with Murry doing his thing the movie is really enjoyable. Other than that I wouldn’t say it’s particularly edited well (not that this is the type of project that needed it). The DP work is effective and sometimes clever but not special (even though the DP has two Oscar nominations).  Costumes, makeup, and set design are nothing to write home about.  I feel like I’m forcing an explanation for why people don’t like it since most comedies aren’t known for these aspects of film making. The movie just seems to have not struck the right chord with enough of the right people. Which is really their loss. It’s not a great example of how a movie should be made, but it’s still extremely entertaining – to me at least.

Here’s what it really comes down to. I’m the type of person who thinks this scene is great.

Maybe its a little offensive to the Latin American population, but not any worse than all of Carlos Mencia‘s stand-up. Otherwise, I think it’s completely genius. During one of my recent bouts of forgetting about this movie I completely forgot about this scene completely until it started happening. A level of long-lost nostalgia and joy overcame me in a way that totally exemplifies this movie to me. There’s a good chance that if you don’t find this scene funny, you won’t find the rest of the movie funny, in which case, we probably don’t have the same taste in movies – which sucks for you because my taste in movies is superb…….just like everyone else in the world.

You can watch the whole thing in pieces on youtube – starting here

Not sure how long that video will last, since I’m guessing it’s not the most legal version of the flick.

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