Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989)

Premise: Harry Crumb is a bumbling and inept private investigator who is hired to solve the kidnapping of a young heiress which he’s not expected to solve because his employer is the mastermind behind the kidnapping.

Letterboxd Challenge: 30 From 30 – 1989 Movies Watchlist – 1/30

I grew up watching and enjoying a lot of John Candy’s work. Uncle Buck, Brewster’s Millions, The Great Outdoors, and Cool Runnings were all on heavy rotation in my house growing up. Who’s Harry Crumb?, however, is a movie I never saw. Now that I’ve seen it, (and although I didn’t necessarily “hate” it) I would have been okay having never seen it.

Who’s Harry Crumb? is a passable private eye spoof that seems to be designed to prove that John Candy can have his own analogous to Fletch. When the comedy works, the movie can be pretty funny. There’s a silent scene in an early montage wherein Crumb is choosing a rental car only to get t-boned just as he leaves the lot. But when it doesn’t work, the comedy falls entirely flat.

A lot of the humor doesn’t age well, either. There are some disguises that Crumb uses that are racially insensitive and would cause outcry in 2019. But even if you put yourself into that late 80s mindset, the disguises are only slightly humorous. Only because of the elaborate design of the costumes. Unfortunately, the disguise scenes don’t have anything else to draw humor from aside from “Hey, look at John Candy’s disguise” sight gag. It comes across as lazy.

The central mystery in the film (a kidnapping plot) isn’t very interesting, sadly. Crumb gains a kooky sidekick in the kidnapped woman’s sister. But like everything else in the movie, they don’t really take the plot anywhere terribly funny.

A lot of the comedy is contrived and expected. In an early scene, Crumb swings into the window of an apartment just as a man and woman are arguing. The man accuses the woman of an affair and asks if a man has been sitting in his chair. Crumb then crashes in, tumbles and stumbles into the man’s chair. It’s these kind of cheap and easy gags that are littered throughout the movie.

The comedy and the lack of a compelling mystery are what keeps Who’s Harry Crumb? from giving Candy his own Fletch. It’s a shame because I would think if he had the write creative team, Candy absolutely had the talent for something much more enjoyable than what was delivered here.

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