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WHO’S HARRY CRUMB?

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Feb. 21, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: John Candy was a talented and charming comic actor who achieved movie stardom in the 1980s and died in 1994 of a heart attack at age 43. He starred in some very good films (‘Planes, Trains & Automobiles,’ ‘Cool Runnings,’ ‘Only the Lonely’) but he was also in an awful lot of flops, like this one (something that seemed to plague most late 20th Century movie comics). Still, the folks at Mill Creek Entertainment seem to think there are enough fans-in-waiting to make ‘Who’s Harry Crumb?’ worthy of a Blu-ray upgrade (as part of Mill Creek's repackaging in retro faux-VHS sleeves). My review was published in the Deseret News on Feb. 5, 1989.

In my review of “Her Alibi,” I compared Tom Selleck’s character to Inspector Clouseau of “The Pink Panther” films. But I had not yet seen “Who’s Harry Crumb?”

So please forgive the analogy again so soon but if ever there was a movie character trying to rip-off Clouseau, it’s Crumb.

John Candy, the comedy star who can’t find a good movie (with the notable exception of “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”) is the star of “Who’s Harry Crumb?” and the film ends with a setup that is an obvious plea for a film series, a la the “Panther” films, or perhaps “Fletch,” another movie detective who relishes offbeat disguises.

     

        John Candy, 'Who's Harry Crumb?' (1989)

The question is, can “Harry Crumb” possibly be successful enough to warrant sequels? Well, the “Police Academy” films manage a yearly outing; anything can happen.

But “Harry Crumb” is consistent with Candy’s tendency to appear in one clunker after another.

Aside from outrageous disguises, how blatant a rip-off is this attempt to create a modern American Clouseau? Well, Crumb is pompous; he thinks he knows karate better than he actually does; he fancies himself a womanizer, though nothing could be further from the truth; and he stumbles, trips and causes accidents — and attempts at physical comedy — everywhere he goes.

The plot doesn’t really matter but for the record it has Crumb looking for a kidnapped young woman who has actually been taken by Crumb’s own boss (Jeffrey Jones). Meanwhile, the wicked stepmother is trying to kill the kidnap victim’s father.

But those are merely hooks on which the filmmakers hang a series of elaborate sight gags, some of which are quite inventive, such as the opener when Crumb is spying on an adulterous couple, he thinks, and the scene where he finds himself on a huge overhead fan in a restaurant and later when … well, you get the idea.

     

John Candy, left, Shawnee Smith, Barry Corbin, 'Who's Harry Crumb?' (1989)

Unfortunately, however, many more are just cheap jokes that fall flat, some actually becoming embarrassing.

The one thing this picture proves is that Candy, however talented a comic he may be, is no Peter Sellers.

Several questions occurred to me while watching “Harry Crumb.” First, why does Candy comment afterward on so many sight gags? They would work better if he had enough confidence to let them stand alone. And why does a movie that so obviously gears its juvenile humor toward youth audiences include so many vulgar jokes? (I don’t want my kids exposed to some of the gags this film includes.) And how is it that Jim Belushi is persuaded to do a cameo in this picture when he’s given absolutely nothing to do?

Oh, yes. And one more question: How many more chances does John Candy get before audiences start staying away just because he’s in a picture?

“Who’s Harry Crumb?” is rated PG-13, for a single utterance of “the Eddie Murphy Word,” along with other profanities, comic violence and some rather vulgar sexual gags.