Who’s Harry Crumb?

John Candy, a mountain of comedy, still hasn’t found a worthwhile movie that he can carry on his own. Candy was brilliant as one of the cast members of SCTV, and he’s provided tasty movie moments as a supporting player (Splash) and as a co-star (Planes, Trains, and Automobiles).

But his first real starring vehicle, Summer Rental, was short on inspiration. Candy is listed as the executive producer of his new starring film, Who’s Harry Crumb?, so he must’ve seen an opportunity to finally do it right. But, though Candy plays the lead role and dominates the movie, the film still doesn’t use his talents to their potential.

He’s playing an inept private detective, called in to solve the kidnapping of a beautiful girl. This gives Candy the excuse to adopt different guises as he tries to ferret out the solution to the crime; he impersonates an Indian, a jockey (that’s a stretch, in more ways than one), and a Hungarian quality-control inspector.

Nothing wrong with having Candy pad around in costumes. But there’s little here that approaches his hilarious work on SCTV, where he was unstoppably funny. (Who could forget his turn as the rotund drag queen Divine, starring as Tinkerbell in a production of Peter Pan?) Even with a former SCTV writer, Paul Flaherty, as the director of this film, Who’s Harry Crumb? can’t find a rhythm for the funny stuff.

For that matter, even Candy can’t quite find the character. Crumb is an imbecilic investigator, but he also has to retain a certain amount of audience sympathy. He’s such a geek that this is difficult to achieve, but it helps that he is surrounded by even less sympathetic characters, especially his devious boss (Jeffrey Jones), the missing girl’s sluttish stepmother (Annie Potts, from TV’s Designing Women), and the stepmother’s goony boyfriend, a tennis pro (Tim Thomerson). Their presence almost makes Harry Crumb appealing.

First published in The Herald, February 1989

It gives me no pleasure to post another reminder of Candy’s disappointing film career. Flaherty (brother of SCTV’s Joe, better known as Guy Caballero and Count Floyd) has a variety of writing and directing credits until 2008. He directed Clifford, the one with Martin Short as a child.


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