It's unfortunate that John Candy's first and last directorial effort (the actor died of a heart attack not long after completing HOSTAGE FOR A DAY) is so unmemorable. The film's ham-fisted approach demonstrates none of the satiric precision that was the hallmark of Candy's acting.
Pity hapless Warren Kooey (George Wendt), who's not only hen-pecked by his spendthrift wife Elizabeth (Robin Duke) but also under the thumb of his father-in-law, Mr. Regan (John Vernon), owner of the printing business Warren manages. When bossy Elizabeth blows the couple's nest egg to have their
home remodeled by designer hunk Hondo (Currie Graham), Warren finally blows a gasket and quits his job. He is temporarily distracted by his ex-girlfriend Diane (Christopher Templeton), who supports his dream of moving to Alaska, but manages to concoct a scheme to recover the $40,000 Elizabeth
squandered on home improvement. Warren locks himself in the house, disguises his voice, and convinces Elizabeth that he's being held captive by two Russian emigre hoods. As SWAT teams surround the house, Elizabeth, believing the kidnappers are ready to blow up her dream home, begs her father to
cough up the ransom. Mr. Regan reluctantly agrees to come up with the money but, in a surprising turn of events, life imitates Warren's fiction: real Russian felons who've been terrorizing the countryside invade the Kooey home, planning to horn in on Warren's abduction scam. The thugs knock out
Mr. Regan, but Warren incapacitates them and drives his van through the garage door, getting away with the $40,000. Warren then crashes his van off a cliff, fakes his own death, and starts a new life. He turns his Alaskan pipedream into reality by starting a lodge business in the Great Outdoors,
where he's joined by true-blue Diane.
There's a certain satisfaction in watching the worm turn for Walter Mittyish Warren, but HOSTAGE FOR A DAY offers audiences little else. First time director Candy shows a heavy hand, and pounds the life out of the scenes involving the kidnapping shenanigans. The movie is handicapped by many
talky scenes exploring Warren's feelings, and the device of having Warren's alter ego appear to him and urge him to follow his heart is also wearing.
HOSTAGE FOR A DAY attempts several kinds of humor, from slapstick to satire, but they don't mix well and they're all crudely done. In addition, the Muzak-y score is often inappropriate to the mood; Duke and Vernon deliver truly misguided performances; and the cherubic Wendt is entirely miscast.
He's too low-key to hold this chaotic comedy together and comes off as a bush-league John Goodman. The film's only real asset (with the exception of a cameo by Candy as one of the Soviets) is the romantic rapport between Wendt and the pretty Templeton. Otherwise, this movie holds its audience
captive to a succession of tired sight gags and maudlin, hand-me-down sentiments about second chances. ( Mild violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: It's unfortunate that John Candy's first and last directorial effort (the actor died of a heart attack not long after completing HOSTAGE FOR A DAY) is so unmemorable. The film's ham-fisted approach demonstrates none of the satiric precision that was the ha… (more)
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