248. Ruthless People

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Movie: Ruthless People

Release Date: June 27, 1986

Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker.

Starring: Danny DeVito, Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater, Bette Midler, Bill Pullman.

Tag Lines: “Barbara Stone has just been kidnapped by K-Mart, and what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

“The Big Screw.”

“Sam Stone’s wife has just been kidnapped… And he doesn’t want her back!”

Relevance: Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers strike again! ‘Ruthless People’ is the directors’ second film (see 309. Top Secret! for their first entry) on my list of most influential movies of all time. They will be appearing four more times either together or separately and have been a source of many, many laughs throughout my life for me and my family.

I didn’t see ‘Ruthless People’ in theaters but not because I didn’t want to. It was rated “R” and I was only fifteen when it was released. Back in the day, they were a little bit stricter about who entered those “restricted” films. I am sure I could have got in if I really wanted to, but like a good Catholic boy, I didn’t want to lie. There was one “R” rated movie that I went to when I was fourteen, but that is a story for later on this year. For the most part, I was a “follow the rules” kind of kid. So I missed out on the summer box office hit starring Bette Midler and Danny DeVito in 1986.

When the movie was finally released as a rental, it was one that was definitely rented by my family as soon as we were able to get our hands on it. As I have mentioned before, my mom and dad weren’t too strict with us when it came to watching “R-rated” movies at home, as long as they weren’t too gratuitous in either sex or violence. So even though I was still underage, I got to watch it at home with my parents. My mom was not a huge fan of silly comedies, and it was surprising that she would want to sit down and watch an entire Zucker brothers production. But there was one reason why she did: Bette Midler.

My mother loved Bette Midler, or as she called her, “Beth” Midler. (No matter how many times I would correct her, it didn’t matter. It was “Beth.”) She loved every aspect of her career and she had all of her albums and saw all of her movies. My mom also enjoyed Danny DeVito, as the TV show “Taxi” was on quite often in our house. So as silly as the movie got, my mom endured, laughed and loved it. The movie actually is not your typical silly and zany film that the directors were most known for, it was just funny. And it made my mom and me laugh a lot.

Once the movie hit HBO, it was watched quite a bit, by both me and my mom. I can watch a movie I love hundreds of times without getting bored. My mom was the same way. If she loved something, it never got old for her. This was one of those movies. And every time we watched it either alone, together or with other family members, we laughed. It is one of those films that is so well directed, written and acted, the comedy seems effortless. This is Bette Midler’s second appearance on this blog (see 253. The First Wives Club) and she will be appearing three more times. I, like my mom, love “Beth” Midler. ‘Ruthless People’ may not be my favorite film of hers, but it is one that brings back a lot of laughs and fond memories with my mom.

Today’s Thoughts: I have not seen ‘Ruthless People’ since the 1990’s. So today’s viewing was a definite treat. I couldn’t wait to laugh at Ms. Midler, Mr. DeVito and crew in a movie that I used to watch so much so many years ago.

As I have said before, funny doesn’t get old. A good comedy lasts forever, and ‘Ruthless People’ was as funny today as it was back when I first saw it. The cast is hysterical, but Bette Midler steals every scene she is in and is by far my favorite character. “I’ve been kidnapped by K-Mart!” She really is a terrific comedic actress and it is a joy watching her in this role.

Here’s a special shout out to Bill Pullman. I totally forgot that he was even in this movie. His role as the “dumb boyfriend” is quite funny and he plays it well. I laughed out loud today when one of the cops says this about him: “This could very well be the stupidest person on the face of the earth. Perhaps we should shoot him.” Good stuff.

‘Ruthless People’ is a movie I don’t hear very much about these days. That’s a shame. It is a great comedy and no matter the mood you are in, you will at least smile. I think I smiled from the opening credits and didn’t stop until it was over. Do yourself a favor and be sure to check it out!

Awards: Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Danny DeVito (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Vudu, DVD Availability.

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