Ruthless People (1986) starring Danny DeVito, Bette Midler, Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater, Anita Morris, Bill Pullman directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Whilst "Ruthless People" stars Danny DeVito and Bette Midler the trio of directors behind the camera will give you a better idea of what sort of movie it is because those men are Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker who gave us some of the best spoof movies from the 80s. Now "Ruthless People" isn't a spoof movie it is a crime caper full of comical confusion and a convoluted plot which gets wackier and wackier. In fact there is as much comedy in "Ruthless People" as in any spoof movie which with the added central crime caper has something to feed off of.
Sam Stone (Danny DeVito - The Jewel of the Nile) only married Barbara (Bette Midler - Then She Found Me) to get his hands on her inheritance, well her old man was on his death bed so it seemed a sure fire thing, except the old goat lasted another 15 years. So now with a bit on the side call Carol (Anita Morris) Sam is planning to knock Barbara out and dump her over a cliff. The thing is that Carol has a boyfriend of her own and knowing what Sam is deviously planning to do is planning to video him dumping the body in order to blackmail him. But before Sam can even knock Barbara out he discovers that she has been kidnapped and the kidnappers are threatening to kill her unless he pays up which is great news for him as it saves him doing it. Except the kidnappers are not criminals just a disgruntled designer and partner who had their design stolen by Sam. Are you following ....
That synopsis sounds like I have given quite a bit of "Ruthless People" away but in truth it is just the set up and as you can probably guess there is a lot going on. And trust me all these elements basically get wilder and wilder as they become more and more comically convoluted as various people try to blackmail others whilst there is a lot of confusion going on. In that sense "Ruthless People" is quite a traditional confusion/ crime caper with misunderstandings, dark deeds and a lot else and that is where it differs because there is a lot going on and before you reach the hour mark you have been inundated with so much that it feels like it must be nearly over.
Part of the reason why it feels like there is so much more is because Abrahams, Zucker and Zucker have given it a bit of spoof like humour. So whilst we may have something funny to do with the story such as Sam's refusal to pay the ransom for his wife we then get the less relevant such as when Carol and boyfriend Earl decide to watch the video in an electrical store and it is shown on all the TVs behind them. It makes "Ruthless People" packed with relevant and irrelevant humour with pretty much all of it working. Some of the gags end up repeated and some seem to have no purpose at all but then somehow tie in to the big picture in amusing ways.
And all this hilarity is delivered by a wide range of stars, Danny DeVito and Bette Midler may be the stars of the movie but funny performances from Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater, Bill Pullman and Anita Morris are as much a part of why it is never dull.
What this all boils down to is that "Ruthless People" is a great convoluted crime caper which thanks to the trio of directors has a spoof like element to it with plenty of irrelevant humour. And whilst the fashions are now dated "Ruthless People" is as funny now as it was back in the 80s when it was released.