Stars: Martin Short, Danny Glover, Sheila Kelley, Sam Wanamaker, Scott Wilson, Harry Shearer, Jorge Russek | Written by Herschel Weingrod, Timothy Harris | Directed by Nadia Tass
Good god, it’s been what seems like a lifetime since I last saw Pure Luck. I’m not even sure it previously made the leap from VHS, where I first saw it back in the early 90s, to DVD here in the UK. Back when the film was first released both Danny Glover and Martin Short could do no wrong. Glover was riding high off the success of the Lethal Weapon franchise, scoring lead roles in Predator 2 and Flight of the Intruder; whilst Short had scored back-to-back hits with Innerspace and Three Fugitives… Well I say do no wrong, but maybe that should have read “could have” done no wrong, given the bad reception afforded this comedy…
Comedy in the early 90s was something of a very hit and miss affair. Filmmakers were looking everywhere and anywhere for that next big film. After Three Men and a Baby, a remake of French film 3 hommes et un couffin, hit it big with audiences across the globe, Hollywood very quickly moved to remake more French comedies in the hopes of repeating that success. Which leads us to Pure Luck, the second Martin Short film to be based on a French original (the first was Three Fugitives)
A “loose” remake of the 1981 French film Le Chevre, which starred Gérard Depardieu, Pure Luck is a slapstick comedy of errors that is a farcical as its plot would suggest. The film tells the tale of Valerie (Sheila Kelley), the unlucky daughter of powerful businessman Highsmith (Sam Wanamaker) who disappears on the first day of her Mexican holiday, Detective Raymond Campanella (Glover) is recruited to track her down. Unable to find her, Highsmith employs the services of the equally unlucky Eugene Proctor (Short) to assist Campanella, hoping his bad luck will somehow help them in their investigation. Stumbling from one mishap to another, the pair must overcome a number of unlikely obstacles as they do all they can to retrace Valerie’s steps through the streets of Acapulco.
Lets be honest, Martin Short was made for this kind of ridiculous comedy. His Jerry Lewis meets Charlie Chaplin shtick, as seen in Innerspace in particular, really suits the bumbling idiot role that is Eugene Proctor. Crashing into doors, driving cars off cliffs, getting stung by bees, falling, tripping and general clumsiness abound. Unfortunately whilst the slapstick humour hits the right notes (thanks to Short’s all-or-nothing physical performance), a lot of the jokes fall flat – mainly due to being telegraphed way to early to be effective.
Meanwhile Danny Glover is Short’s perfect foil. He repeats his “how the hell did I get into this?” act that served him so well in Lethal Weapon. Suffering the same frustrations and life-threatening situations as he did in the Richard Donner action flick! However here Glover is eventually let in on the joke(s) as his straight-laced detective gets more and more enamoured with Proctor’s penchant for bad luck and he, like the audience, realises the absurdity of it all…
Revisiting this new UK DVD of the film made for a pleasant surprise. Unlike a lot of 90s comedy, Pure Luck still holds up today thanks to the sheer resilience of Martin Short and the slapstick humour within. Yes, it may get a little schmaltzy at times but the crazy situational humour more than makes up for it.
Pure Luck is out now on DVD from Final Cut Entertainment.