Who's Harry Crumb?

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Our rating: two lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

It's the old 'tie in the paper shredder' joke!
Perhaps a more pertinent question would be: Whose idea was this movie? Who's Harry Crumb? is one of those John Candy vehicles that wouldn't have been made without the direct involvement of "Executive Producer" ... John Candy. As it stands, it's a pretty poor vehicle for the late great Candy's occasionally brilliant comedy.

Candy plays Harry Crumb, the last in a long line of brilliant private detectives. However, Harry is brilliant in his own special way -- he annoys the criminals until they confess. Oh no, wait, that's Lt. Columbo. Much like every other ill-inspired comedy you've ever seen involving an incompetent-yet-lovable detective, Crumb follows all the wrong clues,makes all the wrong assumptions, and dresses in all the wrong costumes, yet somehow manages to solve the case through luck and coincidence.

Potts and Thomerson in the hot tub.
Crumb, who has been exiled from the family business by the scheming Eliot Draison (the ever-smarmy Jeffrey Jones), is called back from his "special assignment in the mid-west" to work on a kidnapping case. Draison, who has kidnapped the daughter of a wealthy couple he knows, assigns Crumb to the case, thinking that Crumb's bumbling will keep the case from ever being solved. Draison, of course, is wrong.

Crumb does bumble his way through the case, falling off of buildings during surveillance stakeouts, unintentionally insulting people, and accidentally destroying things. At first it looks like he'll never recover Jennifer Downing, the daughter of the wealthy Downing family. But with the help of Jennifer's younger sister, Nikki, Crumb will be able to pull it off.

The first half-hour of this movie is pretty hideous, with no relief in sight, when to what should our wondering eyes appear but... Tim Thomerson! That's right, Jack Deth himself appears as Vince, the scheming boyfriend of Annie Potts. The frightening thing is that Thomerson is the best thing in this movie, mostly because he has the fewest lines of any of the regular characters. He also plays straight man to Candy's idiot. During a car chase, Thomerson mumbles "This is guy is good!" as he watches Crumb expertly stay on his tail in a car chase. In reality, their bumpers are locked together and Crumb is merely hanging on for dear life.

Trust us, you DON'T want to know.
The rest of the cast is solid, but not particularly good. Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure's Maurice) plays the somber P.J. Downing, and Annie Potts is his gold-digger of a second wife (stepmother to Jennifer and Nikki). And didn't we say Tim Thomerson plays her boyfriend? Well then, add adulteress to her resume. All Renee Coleman has to do as Jennifer is cry a little, look scared, and be pretty. We guess she earned her check.

In the supporting cast, for those who are counting, yet another Star Trek connection (however tenuous) is brought to us by Eve Smith, who went from Star Trek IV's "Elderly Patient" to Harry Crumb's "Elderly Woman." (She's the one in the airplane at the end.) Way to go Eve!

Even if you're a huge fan of John Candy, Who's Harry Crumb? isn't going to be very satisfying. Candy works by being pathetically weird, in a remorseful sort of way. He knows he's weird, and he's sorry for it, and that's what makes him funny. The supporting cast is almost as weird as Candy, and that doesn't give him much to contrast against. With Tim Thomerson as a straight man, how weird can you be? Better to watch him spaz out against the backdrop of a more terse and serious Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. There are some moments with Barry Corbin in Harry Crumb that echo this distantly, but none of the jokes in Crumb really even come close.

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Review date: 4/16/97

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