Funny Money

Director: Leslie Greif

I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I laughed during Leslie Greif’s film adaptation of Ray Cooney’s hit British play about mistaken identity and mistaken briefcases. While lacking some of the manic energy and willingness to burst wholeheartedly into the physical comedy routines that helped launch his success in 80’s hits like Caddyshack, Vacation and Fletch, Chevy Chase is just fine as the mild-mannered and dull Henry Perkins, a married man who is hopelessly devoted to his routine including tuna sandwiches for lunch lovingly prepared by wife Carol (Penelope Ann Miller), his nightly ritual of Nick at Nite and his thankless position as a dedicated but mostly overlooked employee of a wax fruit factory.

On his birthday, Henry’s humdrum life is livened up by an accidental encounter with a Russian mobster, with whom he mistakenly switches briefcases, only to discover that the briefcase he’s left with contains five million dollars. Ecstatic about his easy inheritance, Henry books an overseas flight and tells his wife to pack their bags, not expecting his plans to screech to a halt when an intimidating police officer who’d noticed his suspicious behavior arrives for questioning and a handout. Armand Assante is great as the greedy officer whose own transaction with the new millionaire is interrupted when Henry’s good friends arrive to celebrate his birthday for dinner, along with the airport cab driver who is an aspiring comedian, more policemen and of course, the real mobsters who show up looking for their money. Funny Money is lighthearted and forgettable entertainment to be sure but surprisingly hilarious for those of us who enjoy British stage comedies over-packed with complications and eccentricities.