Funny Money

Funny Money. Thinkfactory Media 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I had an impression that Chevy Chase completely disappeared from whenever he left the Vacation movies in the 90s until the late 00s, when he suddenly resurfaced in Zoom, a Tim Allen vehicle about a retired superhero, and on Community. Apparently what he was actually doing at the time was starring in German/Romanian adaptations of British plays. An American company was also involved, but I sure don’t recall any significant American release.

After watching the movie:

Henry Perkins is a dull, predictable man who handles paperwork for a wax fruit factory. His wife Carol has been drawing and sculpting nudes for years but never got the courage to try to show them to art critics. When Henry accidentally swaps briefcases with another man on the subway, he suddenly finds himself in possession of $5 million in unmarked, nonsequential bills that are clearly dirty money nobody is going to go to the police about, and comes home to tell Carol to forget about his birthday dinner with her sister Gina and brother-in-law Vic, they’re going to fly to Europe one way right now. Or they would be, but Det. Genero arrives to question Henry about his suspicious behavior in the men’s room of the bar (where he counted the money). Genero believes it was soliciting, but is willing to forget about it for $10k. While he’s waiting for his money, Det. Slater arrives with the news that a man identified from his briefcase as Henry Perkins was found shot and beaten to a pulp in the river and someone needs to come to the morgue confirm the identity. And Vic and Gina arrive for dinner and get roped into the cover stories that Henry and Carol have given the two detectives. And Angel the cab driver just wants these white people to hurry up and get in the car already. And some foreign-sounding guy keeps calling to yell “brefkess!” at whoever answers.

This might be the best-written thing to center Chevy Chase in the 21st century. A madcap play script driven by a complex web of dramatic irony moving at breakneck pace with precision timing. The lies are constantly expanding and spinning out of control as more and more people show up to get involved.

If anything though, Chase slows down the pace and it might have been better with someone else. I’m not sure if it’s his age or his style, but while everyone around Henry is freaking out about the latest developments, Henry is just quietly sighing and putting the next patch fix on the leaky story. He’s trying to play speed chess, but it’s a pretty calm version of it.

It’s really a little unfortunate that movies don’t get written like this as movies, only adapted from books and plays. Or that more plays don’t get made into movies to share with the world. Movie comedy doesn’t get to be this rich on its own, it has to be borrowed from other media. But I feel like that means the broader audience is missing out on stories as wild as this.

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