Crazy People (1990) — Truth and insanity in advertising

“Don’t go, man. We love you. And if you attempt to leave, we will try and kill you.”

Justin’s rating: Justin: The Fresh-Maker

Justin’s review: This also marks the only cult film that my parents found before I did. My mother, doing freelance writing, deals with a lot of advertising, and she finds this film one of the funniest tributes to the field. Hi Mom! You made it into one of my reviews!

Crazy People stars Dudley Moore as an ad executive who’s in charge of coming up with all those ad slogans that we’re bombarded with every day. At the film’s opening, his wife has left him and he’s sick of the lies that advertisers spew forth regularly. So he decides to create a bunch of ads that are brutally truthful. This, of course, does not go over well in his company.

His boss, thinking he’s plunged over the edge, commits him to a mental hospital. But in the meanwhile, his ads mistakenly get into press and they become a sensation. So Moore and his newfound associates are called on to create more of these unique ads.

First of all, an in-depth analysis of Dudley Moore. He’s short. He’s English. He’s not all that handsome or funny. His appearance in movies is about as inexplicable as Cindy Crawford’s Fair Game or Pamela Anderson Lee’s Barb Wire. Plus, they romantically match up Moore with Daryl Hannah who, along with Goldie Hawn, should be exiled to the isle of grating blondes.

Crazy People is pretty much divided into two sections. The first is the plot with Moore, his mean bosses, his new nutty friends, burgeoning romance, and final escape from the institution. It’s o-kay, tolerable, and occasionally funny. I love the inmates: David Paymer as George, who only says “Hello” (it’s his favorite word); Saabs, a guy who obsesses about the car; an ex-judge; and this big black guy who knits. They’re the Hollywood version of mental patients — slightly kooky, but they aren’t really insane by our standards. No screaming, no childhood trauma, no self-mutilation, no excessive drug use. I particularly love the scene where the inmates are given cars as payment for their services, and they drive them around the lawn to the consternation of the orderlies.

The second, and much more interesting, section involves the ads themselves. These ads are what elevates this film to cult status. I don’t know how they got actual companies to let the filmmakers abuse and present them in a very odd light, but I’m glad they did. I won’t spoil them (there’s a couple dozen, scattered through the movie), but they range from the benign (“Volvos: Boxy, but Nice”) to outrageous (“Paramount Pictures Presents The Freak. This movie won’t just scare you, it will f**k you up for life.”). The commercials that are featured later in the movie are the best, hysterical in their ruthless approach.

Don’t let Dudley Moore and Daryl Hannah on the cover make you pass this quirky, funny movie. Trust me, the guy who bathes at least once a day and shaves three times a week.

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