30 January 2010 | D_Burke
A Movie Not Worthy of Any Respect
I've noticed over the years that when a rock star makes his final album before his death, that album, if it's not his best, is usually prolific in some way and worthy of a listen at least. The album is usually good enough to cement a legacy. However, when it comes to comedians, especially mainstream comics who star in their own vehicles, their final movie is usually God awful. John Belushi had "Neighbors", John Candy had "Wagon's East", Chris Farley had "Almost Heroes", Phil Hartman had "Small Soldiers", and Rodney Dangerfield had this movie.
"Back By Midnight", although it may not have been Dangerfield's very last film, is weak in every sense of the word. It wrapped filming in 2002 according to this website, but it was not released on DVD until 2005, the year after Dangerfield died. It's safe to say that it would have stayed on the shelves if Dangerfield was still alive. I have been a big fan of Dangerfield's since I was in my early teens, and it pains me to see how rotten this film was.
What amazes me the most is that a number of other talented people took part in a movie with a very weak premise to begin with. Dangerfield, a great comedian who usually played his comic persona on film, is a prison warden who houses a close knit group of inmates. When the owner of the prison, Colonel-Tom-Parker-meets-Sam-Walton billionaire Eli Rockwood (Randy Quaid), cuts funding for the prison, the warden sends a group of inmates to break out of prison, rob Rockwood's eponymous convenience stores of consumer goods, and break back into prison with the loot. By taking what's in the convenience stores, they are (I guess) taking what they believe Rockwood owes them.
With this flimsy premise, the movie sputters and stalls frequently. On top of that, the jokes that you think would be this movie's salvation are not even close to funny, not even from Mr. No Respect himself. That is incredibly disappointing too, because you'd expect a movie with Oscar-nominated (!!!) Randy Quaid, Kirstie Alley, Gilbert Gottfried, Ed Begley Jr., Yeardley Smith, and others to be at least a little bit funny. Instead, Quaid plays a character we've seen before in countless other comedies, Alley plays a British heiress with an awful British accent (could this movie not afford an actual British person!?!), and every joke was poorly set up and poorly timed by virtually every member of this ensemble. It was just a bad movie.
"Back By Midnight" was rated R mainly for language (and one scene of nudity). The irony in this fact is that many of the jokes are so audience insulting that even kids (if you edit out the language) would walk out of this film. The physical gags are also incredibly predictable, especially when Alley's pet monkey torments Quaid's character. When the monkey grabs a pair of scissors and jumps on Quaid's couch, who wouldn't know where that gag was going?
Being a direct-to-video comedy, of course I didn't expect any Oscar-winning material on here. The truth is, though, Dangerfield has made some great, timeless comedies before. "Easy Money" and "Back To School" are hilarious still, and were definitely not Oscar-worthy in the slightest. However, there's a difference between making a dumb comedy that's funny, and making a dumb comedy. With the latter kind of comedy, it seems like the filmmakers don't even try, which is precisely the case with this lame excuse for a wasted 90 minutes. Rest in Peace, Rodney, but add this film to your batch of forgettable comedies like "Meet Wally Sparks" (1997) and "The Godson" (1999). This film, dare I say it, is not even worth seeing.