Cadillac Man (1990) / Comedy-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for language, sexuality, brief nudity and violence
Running Time: 97 min.

Cast: Robin Williams, Tim Robbins, Annabella Sciorra, Pamela Reed, Fran Drescher, Zack Norman, Lori Petty, Paul Guilfoyle, Bill Nelson, Eddie Jones, Judith Hoag, Bill Nunn (cameo)
Director: Roger Donaldson
Screenplay: Ken Friedman
Review published January 30, 2007

Robin Williams (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Nine Months) stars as New York car salesman, Joey O'Brien, who finds himself with his back against the wall,  up to his eyeballs in debt and without any prospects of getting out in near sight.  To make matters worse, he has to sell 12 cars in a short amount of time in order to keep his job.  The final straw to this calamity comes when a jealous husband (Robbins, Tapeheads) bolts through the car dealership with a machine gun and plastic explosives demanding to know which of the male employees is the one that has been screwing his wife (Sciorra, Reversal of Fortune).  Thinking quick on his feet, O'Brien takes charge in an effort to smooth talk the release of everyone held hostage, utilizing the skills he's learned as a used car salesman to his advantage.

Robin Williams has made some very unfunny comedies in his career, but not many come close to this one in terms of sheer ineptitude.  The film knows only one manner of travel, and that's to put everything into high gear and keep it there for the duration.  The game plan for comedy is to get everyone involved to scream at the top of their lungs to each other, as if volume somehow equates to hilarity.  When the plot hits a snag or the gags hit a lull, have Robbins fire a few rounds randomly about, further increasing the noise to the utmost proportions.  If the screaming and gunfire don't give you a headache, the grating, smarmy characters most certainly will.

At the risk of sounding like a cliché myself, though the screenplay credit goes to Ken Friedman (Bad Girls, Johnny Handsome), it's pretty obvious it provides more of a general guideline than an actual rule in terms of how scenes play out.  Entire scenes consist of Robin Williams ad-libbing his way in and out of conversations, with his supporting cast of comedic actors following his lead.  It's a shame he didn't have a clue where to go with the material other than to inject vulgarity with a terrible East Coast accent.  It says something about a film when the actor that gets the most laughs is Chester, the feisty Pomeranian owned by Fran Drescher (who later appeared regularly on Drescher's sitcom, "The Nanny").

I'm uncertain as to what parts of the film the makers of Cadillac Man seem to think are the funny bits.  Is Robin Williams sleeping around with the wives of others funny?  Is a man who shoots up a car dealership in an effort to figure out who has slept with his wife (he even shoots in the head in one scene) funny?  Who seems to think these things would lead to a winning comedy?

Apparently there are a few people out there that must think so, based on the rather complimentary reviews it has received from some notable critics.  They seem to have been exceedingly charitable to even call such an obnoxious film as passable fare -- I guess when the top grossing comedies of the year are Home Alone and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the threshold for entertainment must have been pretty low.  As a film it's a disaster, taking approximately 45 minutes just to set up the fact that Williams is a womanizing, unscrupulous salesman who is in a heap of financial trouble.  The remaining 45 minutes has him trying to finagle his way out of a hostage situation that has no game plan whatsoever -- much like the movie itself.  

The only part that made me genuinely chuckle is the irony of Tim Robbins line to the hostages where he commands, "Nobody try anything funny in here!"  With a script this poor, situations this forced and performances this strained, he needn't have worried.

 Qwipster's rating:

©2007 Vince Leo