Tuesday, March 14, 2006


How exactly did Bill Murray go from playing sarcastic cocky motormouths (Stripes , Ghost Busters, Scrooged) to playing tortured unfulfilled near-ghosts? (Lost in Translation, Broken Flowers , The Royal Tenenbaums). The easy mark would be to pinpoint when he started working with talented young directors, the first being Wes Anderson with Rushmore. It revived his career which was going nowhere and took him right out of the broad comedy set into a more art-film world. But Murray was in the art film world before that. In Tim Burton's black & white Ed Wood biopic he plays one of Wood's eccentric entourage and is looking to have a sex change operation. If you go back a little further, it would tempting to say Groundhog Day, which was still a broad comedy, but it had a refreshing existential bent. I'm sure someone would even mention the fizzled comedy/drama he made with Robert De Niro and Uma Thurman, Mad Dog and Glory.

All Wrong! You would have to go back to 1990 for the overlooked comedy gem Quick Change. Part heist film, part farcical screwball comedy, the film first feels like a blockbuster-type film. There is a large bank heist with loads of police officers and such. But the movie quickly changes (i know, i know, pun intended) into a highly quirky character piece. Actually, it is more of a series of surreal and increasingly unlikely sketchs (but trust me, it works and is damn funny). The film features Murray at his sarcastic best, with the world against him. Well, the world being New York City. The film has a real hate-on for the town so nice they named it twice.

Opening with a scenic shot of Central Park, the camera pans down to reveal that the scene is just a poster on an overcrowded subway of sleepy communters (and it does this to the tune of Nat King Cole's L-O-V-E). There is Bill Murray (appropriately named Grimm), in full clown regalia with a handful of balloons. He tries to get off the train, but the hordes of people getting on an off toss him about like a leaf in a storm. When he does manage to disembark the train, he heads for the nearest bank and pulls off a dynamo heist of about one million dollars. All he has to do is get to the airport with his two accomplices (a radiant Geena Davis, and a typically bumbling Randy Quaid). But robbing a bank is easy, finding the airport in spite of ignorant construction workers, organized crime, cabbies who do not speak American, militant bus-drivers and determined police chiefs is hard. At one point, when they finally even spot an airplane, the question "Is that our plane?" is answered in perfect deadpan: "No if that was our plane, it would be crashing."

I don't know why, but for a film which gets quite silly at times, I found it interesting, no I dare say refreshing, that the film would have such a number of F-bombs dropped (and other foul things said). If this movie were made today, I doubt there would be so many cuss words (and the film would be PG, not R). But these characters have a million dollars and are frustrated to hell by the city. Swearing is mandatory and fun for the whole family!

Quick Change is also a fun exercise in spot-the-character-actor-who-has-gotten-a-lot-more-famous: Phil Hartman, Tony Shalhoub, Stanley Tucci, and Kurtwood Smith all have bit parts that can't help but make you smile.

In the end, Quick Change earns a few more points than it deserves because it was completely buried when it came out in 1990. It did (I believe) start Bill Murray down the road to more interesting films. There is a (classic) line from the film really says it all. The bank security guard (after having a gun pulled on him by a clown) asks, "Just what type of clown are you?" Murray's response, "The crying on the inside kind I guess." Sound familiar?

Come out Tuesday Night at 8:00 for drinks and munchies. Trailers & showtime at 8:30 (It's a breezy one too, running at a brisk 86 minutes)


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