The Scoop: 1994 PG-13, directed by Jonathan Lynn and starring Michael J. Fox, Kirk Douglas, Olivia d’Abo, Nancy Travis, Phil Hartman, and Jere Burns
Tagline: Where there’s a will…there’s a relative.
Summary Capsule: An average guy ends up in the middle of his family’s insane obsession with inheriting his uncle’s millions.
Eunice’s Rating: “For the love of money is the root of all evil…”
Eunice’s Review: Uncle Joe (Kirk Douglas) is rich, like really really rich. Having no children of his own, his nieces and nephews spend their lives kowtowing to Uncle Joe and stabbing eachother in the back like it’s an Olympic sport. In turn Uncle Joe treats them with unmasked contempt, and revels in the fact that they’ll take whatever crap he dishes out because they’re just waiting to swoop in as soon as he croaks like a flock of buzzards. It’s what all their parents did and they force their children to follow in their footsteps. Except for Daniel Sr. Daniel Sr. never grovelled for Uncle Joe, and Joe loved him and his son Danny for it. So when they had a falling out and parted ways it broke a piece of Uncle Joe’s heart.
And so the family live in repetitive hate for years until the boat is rocked. See, Uncle Joe has hired a “nurse” named Molly (Olivia d’Abo), a young beautiful British woman who showed up as the pizza delivery girl and Joe invited to live at his house. Now afraid that Joe’ll give her everything in his will, the cousins decide to band together and come up with a plan. They hire a private investigator to track down Danny Jr. as a birthday present. Well now all grown up, Daniel (Michael J. Fox) is a professional bowler with a sports announcer girlfriend. He’s got talent, but never actually finaled on the national level, and now progressive arthritis is about to end his career. He does have an opportunity to buy a partnership in a super bowling alley (it was the ’90s), but needs cash to do it. When the detective shows up he initially turns down coming because he doesn’t want to get caught up in the family games and ugliness, but decides he’d like to see Joe again because he remembers him fondly and wants to check on him.
Greedy is a hard movie for me to talk about because the best part to me, my absolute favorite scenes are at the end and to discuss them is completely spoilery and not cool. So, I’ll try my best otherwise.
In the history of my long line of actor crushes, I can recall none who come before… Michael J. Fox (he just beats out Patrick Swayze by about a year). I think it was Back to the Future that started it. No matter how it started, when I was a kid I watched pretty much everything he was in. Most of Fox’s comedies from this time have a romantic angle and is about his character choosing love instead of money [See the If you liked this movie, try these section]. In Greedy he’s already in a committed relationship and has to learn how to balance out his integrity with the lure of money.
And of course he does get caught up in the mind games, or we wouldn’t have a movie. He doesn’t want to leave his uncle to the grasping hands of his cousins, who would be willing to stand around while the old man chokes to death. And he’s not sure if Molly is just the gold digger the cousins make her out to be. And he really wants to love his uncle, but never knows when he’s telling him the truth or just messing with his head. In short, he’s an honest amateur in a pit of vipers.
Also, this is a little more mean spirited than most of the comedies I like. The ruthlessness of the cousins and their spouses is mostly played for laughs. Fighting like children, naming all their kids some form of Jo, behaving like no sane adult ever would. You get the sense that they were once normal, maybe even good, human beings, but have been twisted by Joe and his money. Except for Frank. Phil Hartman especially shines as the loudest and most horrible of the bunch, his delivery, if nothing else, is worth watching this movie for. He’s such a nasty piece of work it’s great. But while it never goes into full dark comedy mode, it does get a little dark. They threaten to kill Molly, are willing to let Uncle Jo die and are unashamedly happy when they think he’s dead, and want to chuck Uncle Joe into a home as soon as they can.
Kirk Douglas is amazing as Joe. Joe is a mean hard as nails doesn’t give a crap cantankerous old man in a wheelchair. He truly hates and despises his family. As the movie goes on you get a glimpse why he is the way he is, lending some dramedy into the mix. The scenes between him and Daniel are the best, when you don’t know if Joe is being sincere or not. At the beginning of the movie when Daniel comes back, Joe tells Daniel that if he picks him over his father he’ll give him the money for the bowling alley. It becomes the crux of their dynamic, how far can Joe push Danny? How far will Danny bend until he’s willing to break his morals? And the part where Joe wrestles Danny and Danny swims away in fear is so funny.
Also want to applaud Jonathan Lynn’s performance as Joe’s abused yet hilariously snarky butler Douglas. He only get’s a little screen time, but he makes his mark.
Something I appreciate about Greedy is it never gets too preachy. Money is never the evil, it gets you downtown to where all the action is. It’s really about balance and honesty. With the cousins being on the extremely greedy end of the scale and Daniel’s father on the other overly self righteous end and people like Daniel and Molly trying to do the right thing in the middle. And what it all comes down to between Joe and Danny isn’t the money, but Joe’s dishonesty.
So I can’t tell you about the ending, but I can tell you the first time I watched it that last part, the last two seconds, totally didn’t see it coming. And the way everything in the family comes to a head is great (again, especially Phil Hartman). And the part in between those two parts makes me a little misty eyed. Stupid mean spirited comedy gonna make me cry!
So really good acting all around, and a great twenty-five minutes at the end.
- The clip with Jimmy Durante singing ‘Inka Dinka Doo’ that plays over the opening credits is from Two Girls and a Sailor
- The song Danny sings for Joe is Durante’s ‘You Gotta Start Off Each Day with a Song’ from On an Island with You
- Michael J. Fox was coached by professional bowler Johnny Petraglia to help his bowling style look convincing.
- The last movie before Kirk Douglas had his stroke.
- Charade is the title on the movie marquis at the end
- Sometimes I forget Jere Burns ever didn’t look like the Joker.
- Michael J. Fox was really fit.
- The tattoo.
- That is exactly the kind of logic/arguments drunk men have.
Carl: What kind of cough? Was it dry, liquidy…
Douglas: It was just a cough, sir. Next time I’ll save you a sample.
Carl: Yolanda, go clean something!
Angry Husband: You made my life a living hell!
Angry Wife: Kiss my ***!
Angry Husband: That could take all night!
Robin: You hit a car. You coulda killed somebody.
Daniel: The way I bowl?
Daniel: You’re a detective? Great help me find my pants.
Younger Uncle Joe: Where’s my special boy? Where’s Uncle Joe’s special boy?.
Young Carl: Here I am Uncle Joe.
Younger Uncle Joe: Carl, get in touch with reality.
Frank: Look. I didn’t like the Beatles, and I don’t like you.
Frank: Okay, Joe. Bare knuckles, toe to toe. We’ve spent 20 years eating your **** and saying, “Mmm, delicious! What a cook!” – no more!
Molly: Let me tell you something, handsome. If I were having sex with your Uncle Joe, he’d be dead by now.
Daniel: I had no idea just how sick you guys were.
Frank: Come spend a day with us.
Molly: You tell your cousins I’m not afraid of them. And you leave Joe alone.
Daniel: You keep your breasts off his eyebrows.
Daniel: These pills only work if I give them to him myself. It’s a very rare condition.
Hotel Clerk: Excuse me sir, does this say moron?
Daniel: What the hell’s the matter with you. Do you not care about this hotel’s reputation? You know there is an old man shacked up here with a very young girl.
Hotel Clerk: Sir, most of these rooms have old men with young girls. This is Washington.
Douglas: May I ask you for a reference before you go upstairs sir?
Bartlett: I’m sure this may come as a shock.
Frank: No, *****ing a sailboat is a shock, this is a ****ing catastrophe!
Daniel: You say one more word and I’ll kick your *** so high up you’ll have to take off your shirt to ****!
If you liked this movie, try these:
- For Love or Money
- Doc Hollywood
- Daddy’s Dyin’… Who’s Got the Will?