Brewster's Millions review by Tom Blain
Money was a huge topic in the 80s. It was the decade that gave us yuppies, cocaine, loud fashion styles and Reganomics and a myriad of other jokes that made living in the decade feel like hangover. Even the movies that came out in the 80s seemed to be obsessed with the buck. Wall Street was the biggest, most successful, and even most thought provoking. Then there were other movies like Secret to my Success where a young Michael J. Fox tries to claw his way to the top in corporate America. To show that its not just the clean cut whities getting all the greenbacks, let me add Brewster's Millions to the list. Although its not Pryor's best work, its a fairly enjoyable popcorn-munchin' 80s comedy.
Montgomery Brewster (Richard Pryor) is a relief pitcher for the Hackensack Bulls, a minor league baseball team. He is a serviceable pitcher who had a short run in the pros with the Cubs and, despite his age, is clinging to the hopes of one day getting his second shot. One day, after he and his catcher Spike Nolan (John Candy) are bailed out of jail, Monty is told that he stands to inherit either $300 million in one day. Apparently he had an unknown rich grandfather (Hume Cronyn) that he never knew of. There is a catch however; in order to claim the money, he must first spend $30 million in 30 days and at the end of 30 days have nothing to show for it.
This, of course, sounds easy, but there are some stipulations. He can only devote a certain percentage to charity and he must pay people their market value and no more. He may only pay people he employess their market value. Most importantly he must not tell a single person that he is purposely trying to waste the $30 million. Brewster quickly finds that blowing that much cash isn't going to be a simple task.Eventually Brewster ends up finding that people with as much spending power as he has should put their money to good use. Instead of going on and 80s style Roman-spending orgy, he begins to endorse causes that could affect other people in a positive way. His biggest cause is the "Vote None of the Above" campaign in which he lashes out at self centered politicians.
I have fairly fond memories of this movie. It came out when I was seven years old and was probably one of the few things by Richard Pryor that I could watch at the time. Its a simple little comedy that is funny to watch and not too challenging. There are a few race jokes that Pryor cracks here and there; the big joke being that he had a rich, white grandfather. Overall its tame. Years later I suppose I am disappointed by it for the same reasons. There is so much said about how Richard Pryor revolutionized comedy, but his movies in many cases were a generic and simple. A lot of it probably has to do with studios not wanting to make a Richard Pryor movie with Richard Pryor style humor.
One thing I realized after looking up information on this movie was that there are many versions of this movie. The first was in 1914 and directed by a young Cecil B. DeMille. There is also a 1921 version starting Fatty Arbuckle. Here's hoping Turner Classic Movies has them in the vault.
Brewster's Millions is not going to light your hair on fire, but it is much better (and less embarrassing) than The Toy. Its enjoyable, somewhat nostalgic, and it has a few glimmers of subdued Pryor humor. A young and trimmed (sort of) Candy only plays second fiddle in this one, but he has a few good laughs as well.
Brewster's Millions is out on DVD in the very affordable Richard Pryor Collection along with three other Pryor movies.
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