Brewster’s Millions (1985)

Brewster’s Millions. Silver Pictures 1985.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve already covered the 1945 version of this story, but I knew that eventually I’d come to this one. This is the 7th movie adaptation of the 1902 novel just in English, and at this point it’s surprising that it hasn’t been tried again. The reputation this version has is tepid, and it’s the version people think of when the name comes up (the last version with the same title was made 40 years previous), but it’s clearly a story with staying power, and within the next ten years, every memorable movie from the 80s is going to get remade if it hasn’t already.

After watching the movie:

Monty Brewster, minor-league baseball pitcher, is summoned to a law office and informed that a great-uncle he never knew about who made a fortune out west has died and left the entire estate of $300M to Monty, but only if he can successfully spend $30M in a month so that he’ll get so sick of spending money that he’ll never spend a dime again. While the executor of the will has no stake in the disposition of the fortune, if Monty fails, the $300M will be divided among charities by the law firm, less a significant percentage for legal costs, so the partners make plans to sabotage him. Also, Monty’s friend Spike irritatingly keeps making good investments for him. Everyone around Monty either has a hand out or is disgusted by his extravagance.

Richard Pryor and John Candy are great clowns. Neither of them get to show that off in this movie. They play as straight as the ridiculous situation allows. John Candy’s role as Monty’s best friend should make him the comic relief sidekick, but he just pops up in a few scenes to be aghast at Monty’s bad spending ideas or to bring Monty the good news that he’s just made Monty more money. But as straight as they play, Lonette McKee is even straighter, and unfortunately not as remarkable as her character’s fiance, who comes in as an innocent puppy dog of a man, but quickly becomes the henchman of the law firm in exchange for a promise they’ll make him a partner. Even in the end, as a direct antagonist, I found him to still be a little aw-shucks likeable.

Usually when a movie “opens up” a story, that means that a plot that originally took place entirely in rooms, probably because it was written for the stage, gets a few outdoor location scenes because the movie can do that, and they feel obligated to provide extra spectacle. But the real way this movie “opens up” next to the 40s version is that Monty’s winning strategy for sinking his money is to run a massive protest campaign against the two corrupt politicians running for mayor, which taps into the heart of all of New York City. Unlike the way movies recently have been embellishing climaxes to raise stakes, “Vote for None of the Above” is more about the emotional arc than the external arc, and the climax has nothing to do with it, and is still just in a room.

This is not the comedy the billing and the poster promised. It’s a slow, melancholy piece about how isolating it is to suddenly have a lot of money and no idea what to do with it. It’s a ridiculous concept with a beating heart instead of a rimshot.

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One thought on “Brewster’s Millions (1985)

  1. Kenneth T. September 14, 2018 / 7:54 pm

    I’ve never seen the original movie, but this adaptation (with Richard Pryor) I’ve seen many times.

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