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A movie, not puffed

Your Humble Blogger watched the movie The Wrong Guy t'other night. It's a clever little low-budget Canadian comedy from the late nineties, written by and starring Dave Foley and David Anthony Higgins and directed by David Steinberg. It's odd, though, because despite having a good cast of funny people and clever situations and good writing, it's not all that funny a movie. It's a B or perhaps a B-, and I'm not sure why.

The two big gags are that Dave Foley's character believes that he is on the run from the law as the main suspect in a murder, and that David Anthony Higgins' lazy and avaricious policeman is totally uninterested in actual law enforcement. They're both good gags. The first one is a good plot driver, as the semi-fugitive makes his incompetent way to the border, getting himself almost killed a few times and eventually falling in love. The second one isn't a good plot driver, but is funny anyway; when the real killer finally crosses the state line, the cop shows palpable relief that the feds will take over and he can go home. When the feds keep him on the case with an unlimited expense account, he "follows up leads" in New York instead of following the killer. I'm not sure the two gags work well together, though. I mean, the false fugitive would have been perfectly safe had he been a real fugitive, since the cop wasn't interested in chasing him. It throws the thing off.

Also, for some reason, the gags on the way are funnier in concept than they are in the movie. Our hero finds himself in a small town, where he falls in love with a pretty, pure-hearted but poor girl. Her father, you see, is the town banker, but he's being squeezed out by the rich farmers, who are going to force him out of business and plant corn where the bank is standing. A creepy conspiracy theory buff picks up our hitchhiking hero, who of course can't give his name or where he is going. A variety of contrived coincidences where the real killer meets up with our hero in various locations. The hotel clerk who finds our hero's suspicious behavior suspicious, but is totally taken in by the real killer. I don't know why they don't work better than they do, but they don't.

Do you know any movies like that? Movies that seem like they should be good movies, but somehow don't work, and you can't figure out why? Usually, it's either the cast or the writing, for me, although sometimes a really badly edited and directed movie will have ruinously bad pacing. But for those, it's clear why the movie fails. This one, I can't nail down a reason.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.