Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Brewster's Millions

Film #346

THE PLOT

A minor league baseball player has to waste $30m in 30 days in order to inherit $300m; however he’s not allowed to tell anyone about the $300m deal.

Year 1, Day 346

BEFORE: Moving back to comedy for a few days, Brewster’s Millions is a film that intrigued me ever since I heard the premise: how hard can it really be to spend $30 millions dollars in a month? I’m really looking forward to finding out, especially with Richard Pryor and John Candy starring (and looks like a guest appearance by Rick Moranis).

AFTER: Brewster’s Millions is a very charming film that moves as quickly as Monty Brewster (Richard Pryor) spends his $30 million. As expected, the premise is highly intriguing and in more ways than I thought. There’s a lot more rules than just not telling anyone about it and it’s all meant to teach Brewster about the importance of money. While filled with greatness, there’s some bad investments so-to-speak that the film makes.

Most of the appeal with this film is with it’s novelty. There have to be plenty of films about spending great sums of money and inheriting vast fortunes beyond the heirs’ imagination, but here all that is taken to the extreme. Rupert Horn (Hume Cronyn) is Brewster’s great-uncle who presents this proposition. He sets it up unlike any other will; he sets it up as a game. And that’s exactly what Brewster’s Millions feels like: a game. Not only is there the baseball element, but exactly how do you spend $30 million. Turns out, you need to think creatively. Sure hiring people for exorbitant salaries is an easy way out - and Brewster hires a lot of people - but when you think about it, that sum of money is pennies compared with what he has to spend. All told, the salaries of all his employees (of which he must have had hundreds) couldn’t have totaled more than a million or so. Which begs the question, where does the money go? The answer is also the best and most entertaining part of the film. Discovering new and creative ways to spend the money, like it’s a game, is incredible to watch. The only example I’ll mention is one that has bigger repercussion in the film and that is Brewster’s decision to finance his own campaign for Mayor. Hands down the funniest scene in the film is when Brewster turns on the TV (after hearing devastating news) and hears the reporters talk about the millions of dollars the mayoral candidates are wasting on the election. Richard Pryor does a fantastic job with no words, just an extremely simple facial expression, that had me cracking up.

While I applaud the ingenuity and originality of the film, the execution leaves much to be desired. I mentioned already that the film moves quickly which normally is a good thing. That means energy is high, you’re invested in the film, and you aren’t bored. And that’s true here as well, you are engaged in the film from beginning to end. But part of me feels as though it moves too fast that is glazes over elements that would make Brewster’s Millions a great film. The message of knowing how to spend your money wisely and not let wealth affect who you are is a good one, but it feels rushed. Mentioned at the start and then forgotten until the end when it’s brought back as an “oh yeah, remember he was supposed to hate spending this money.” And this fast pace also prevents any real character development. Great deals of characters are introduced and then forgotten - Rick Moranis’ copy-cat character being just one example - leaving you to wonder what the point of introducing them was in the first place. It’s not all to do with the pacing. Some of the writing, and acting for that matter, just isn’t great. All that originality and ingenuity seems to rest solely in the ideas, not the actual meat of the film.

Novelty is the most accurate word I think I used in this piece. Brewster’s Millions was very entertaining and I enjoyed watching it. Even if you think you know what a film about spending $30 million is about, I can guarantee you that there will be at least one thing that forces you to alter your thinking. But at the end of the day, it’s just a novelty. Something that can provide a great deal of entertainment but then is worthless. Because this film lacks some vital elements - chief among them being a well developed message - a lot of the true entertainment potential isn’t there. Do give this film a watch, it’s well worth it, but don’t expect to find your new favorite film here.

RATING: 3 out of 5