Here at T8MC, we consider Stir Crazy to be one of the greatest films of all time. A large part of that is the on-screen chemistry of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. So, presenting a buddy comedy but replacing Gene Wilder with the far less good John Candy (sorry, but never a fan) should make Brewster’s Millions a hard sell for us. Thankfully this rags to riches to rags to riches comedy wisely focuses on Pryor who was still in great form here.
The film tells the story of Monty Brewster, a Minor League Baseball player who is past his best and rapidly running out of luck. All he has going for him is the enduring friendship of teammate Spike Nolan (John Candy) but when they are arrested for a bar fight, and fired from the team, all seems lost. That is until they are bailed out by a mysterious benefactor and summoned to New York to meet the legal team at Granville and Baxter.
Brewster’s great uncle has died and as he’s the only family left, Brewster is set to inherit a lot of money from him. Unfortunately, nobody gets that rich without being a prick and Uncle Rupert is no exception.
Taking inspiration from that old practise of making curious youngsters smoke the entire packet to stop them getting hooked, Rupert decides that when it comes to his money, Brewster is going to have to smoke the whole packet too.
Brewster has to spend $30 million in thirty days. He’s not allowed to have any assets left at the end but if he manages it, he gets the whole fortune. A whopping $300 million. There’s a catch though. He isn’t allowed to tell anyone. Failing the challenge means the money ends up in the hands of the law firm. So you can guess how they act.
From this point on, the film kind of follows the template set down by Trading Places. You have a down on his luck black man suddenly getting rich and there’s two rich old white bastards trying to scupper him.
In an effort to spend every cent, Brewster appears to go crazy by hiring pretty much everyone he sees to work for him, paying for lavish parties and creating a baseball stadium so that he can have one final shot against a Major League team. In the meantime Spike keeps trying to help by attempting to save and invest the money, while down to earth paralegal, Angela Drake, does the same while keeping track of all his accounts.
The film hits all the right ’80s beats. The loyal best friend, the distant love interest, the rich old baddies, the weasly company man and everything else you need. The pacing is good and the tension of the situation got to me even though I still had a vague memory of how it was all going to go down.
The loud and wacky style of John Candy serves a constant annoyance (to us at least) as he strives to do the right thing but the heartwarming nature of Monty and Spike’s friendship is hard to dislike. The only downside is the film’s ending. It’s incredibly sudden and just ends without resolving the loose end that is the potential relationship between Brewster and Angela.
That said, Brewster’s Millions still works and is undeniably enjoyable. However, it does lack the truly killer lines of the best ’80s comedies. The strength of a good one is shown by how many of its lines are still quoted today and you won’t be finding many, if any, from this film but for a quick-paced example of the genre with a ton of energy, this is well worth the time.