Based on the French film LE CHEVRE, PURE LUCK is the fifth comedy by Francis Veber to be remade in the United States. A look at the first four might have been daunting. Veber's play L'Emmerdeur was the basis for Billy Wilder's depressing BUDDY BUDDY; LE JOUET was remade with Richard Pryor
and Jackie Gleason as the painfully unfunny THE TOY; THE TALL BLOND MAN WITH ONE BLACK SHOE became the Tom Hanks clunker THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE; and LES FUGITIFS spawned the dreadful THREE FUGITIVES with Martin Short and Nick Nolte. PURE LUCK continues this trend.
Valerie Highsmith (Sheila Kelley) may well be the unluckiest woman in the world: within hours of having arrived in Mexico for a vacation, she's fallen from a high window, been mugged on the street, lost her memory and been kidnapped by a smiling lowlife who intends to extort money from her family
as soon as she remembers who they are. Her wealthy father (Sam Wanamaker) is desperate to find her, but all conventional means fail. So he agrees to try a harebrained scheme that involves dispatching someone as luckless as Valerie to her last known destination and hoping he stumbles onto her
trail. The guinea pig: accountant Eugene Proctor (Martin Short), a man for whom holes seem to open in the street and automatic doors never open. Proctor is teamed with detective Raymond Campanella (Danny Glover), a model of direct and rational behavior, whose failure to find Valerie is a major
Once in Mexico, the mismatched duo bumble through a series of encounters that do eventually lead them to the missing heiress, bickering and eventually developing a grudging affection for one another. At the film's conclusion, Proctor and Valerie wake up together at the same hospital and recognize
one another as kindred spirits. But even a brief walk out to the pier is no simple matter: it breaks away from shore and begins to float towards a roaring waterfall, to which the happy couple is oblivious.
PURE LUCK seems intended to be a sweet, good-natured comedy about life's unfortunates, good people to whom bad things happen on an unbelievably regular basis. But that's not really a sweet, good-natured idea. It is funny to watch people fall down stairs and walk into doors, but it's cruelly
funny, like laughing at cripples. Neither screenwriters Herschel Weingrod and Timothy Harris nor director Nadia Tass (MALCOLM) seem willing to admit as much, so PURE LUCK never goes for the gut.
Danny Glover is an adequate straight man, as both LETHAL WEAPON pictures demonstrate, and Martin Short can certainly be funny; his small role as sincerely smarmy agent Neil Sussman in THE BIG PICTURE was a showstopper. But they don't really play as a team; you get the feeling that their sheer
physical disparity--tall, dark-skinned Glover and tiny, red-haired Short--struck someone as so inherently funny that it didn't matter that the two of them don't ignite comic sparks.
The most successful scene in PURE LUCK may be the one in which Campanella shows a photograph of Valerie to a bandaged Indian whose entire village burned down just because she happened to wander through. He screams, Campanella pulls back the photo, then after a moment's hesitation shows it to him
again. Another bloodcurdling scream. The action is repeated twice more, each time producing a pavlovian shriek. It's funny, it's sadistic and it's totally out of sync with the rest of the film. (Violence, mild profanity.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: PG
- Review: Based on the French film LE CHEVRE, PURE LUCK is the fifth comedy by Francis Veber to be remade in the United States. A look at the first four might have been daunting. Veber's play L'Emmerdeur was the basis for Billy Wilder's depressing BUDDY BUDDY; LE JO… (more)