Thursday, July 22, 2010

'The Wrong Guy' is the right viewing choice

The Wrong Guy (1997)
Starring: Dave Foley, Jennifer Tilly, Colm Feore, and David Anthony Higgins
Director: David Steinberg
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

After being passed over for promotion and publicly threatening to kill his boss, dimwitted corporate executive Nelson Hibbert (Foley) finds his boss murdered. Convinced that no one will believe he is innocent, Nelson goes on the run. He accidentally (and completely unknowingly) stumbles upon the real killer (Feore) and repeatedly leads the police to him as he tries to escape. While a fugitive from no-one, Nelson finds true love in the arms of a simple country banker's daughter (Tilly)... just as the real murderer decides it's time to get rid of his dogged pursuer.

"The Wrong Guy" is an undeservedly obscure comedy that spoofs "The Fugitive"-style crime thrillers in general and a recurring element in Alfred Hitchcock thrillers in particular--"the wrong man"/"wrongfully accused"--with Dave Foley portraying perhaps the most oblivious, hapless figure to ever flee the scene of a crime. Even moreso than the classic sitcom "News Radio" this movie shows what a great shame it is that Foley isn't a bigger star than he is.

Of course, it helps that Foley is working with a very funny and very well-written script that derives most of its humor from the fact that just about every character in the story is a complete moron. However, in addition to slapstick and lots of dumb humor, the film includes many well-executed spoofs of standard elements in thrillers, such as its climax atop the Statue of Liberty head. This cleverly constructed sequence is so well done that the audience becomes wrapped up in the excitement of a standard thriller set-piece, only to have the tension dissolve with laughter a split-second later as we're reminded that the final showdown is taking place on a mini-golf course.

Foley is supported by a great cast, with Colm Foere as the coldblooded professional hit man and Jennifer Tilly as a cute country girl with an unfortunate illness that manifests itself at the most inopportune (and funniest) moments. Tilly is a welcome presence in anything she does, but her quirky looks, unique voice, and offcenter character makes her the perfect on-screen companion for Foley's equally cute and quirky Nelson Hibbard. When the inevitable love plot appears, it's a perfect couple that the audience is instantly rooting for. I hope that Foley and Tilly will appear on-screen together again, because they are excellent together. "The Wrong Guy" is a great comedy that deserves more recognition than it has gotten.

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