Worth a weak smile

Jokes that neither win, place nor show

Published: Sep 19 2017, 01:01:am

Friday, February 3, 1989

WHO’S HARRY CRUMB? Written by Robert Conte and Peter Martin Wortmann. Music by Michel Colombier. Directed by Paul Flaherty. Running time: 94 minutes.  Mature entertainment with the B.C. Classifier’s warning: occasional very coarse language and suggestive scenes.
WE WERE DOING SO well. In recent months, Vancouver has provided the locations for such interesting screen fare as Stakeout, Shoot to Kill, Distant Thunder and The Accused.
    He was doing OK. John Candy, the most successful of the SCTV alumni, was averaging three or four features a year, and making steady progress from supporting player to co-star in the bargain.
    Last year, the big guy came to our town to play a starring role. The result, a gobbler called Who's Harry Crumb?, makes neither him nor us look good.
    Under the direction of Joe Flaherty's brother Paul, Candy is Harry Crumb, a mildly moronic private eye. The idiot son of a master detective, Crumb is called in when heiress Jennifer Downing (Renee Coleman) is kidnapped.
    Clearly, devious detective agency boss Eliot Draisen (Jeffrey Jones) wants to see this case botched. Clearly, screenwriters Robert Conte and Peter Martin Wortmann think having Crumb bumble his way to success just has to be funny.
    Are there breakables anywhere in sight? Casual destruction is supposed to be funny.
    Is there an old gag anyone just remembered? Even jokes already worked to death could still be funny.
    They seemed to think that having big John's character wear a succession of oddball disguises is funny. (Indeed, seeing the man mountain tricked up as a jockey is worth a weak smile.)
     None of their efforts, though, prompted me to outright laughter. In the wake of a manic, inventive, unstoppable comedy like The Naked Gun, dumdum Crumb's picture seems slow, unoriginal and largely unnecessary.
    An embarrassingly tired collection of Hot to Trot-like comic wheezes, Who’s Harry Crumb? neither wins, places nor shows.

The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1989. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.

Afterword: Pittsburgh-born Paul Flaherty started out as a musician. A guitarist, he did session work with various R&B artists in Los Angeles during the 1970s. He joined the SCTV team in 1980, where he wrote sketches for the Canadian comedy troupe that included his older brother, actor Joe Flaherty. Over a three-decade career, he’s worked on both sides of the border, creating material for the L.A-based The Tracey Ullman Show (1987), the Toronto sitcom Manic Mansion (1990-1993), and back to California for Muppets Tonight (1996-1998), The Martin Short Show (1999-2000) and Primetime Glick (2001-2003). In the process, Flaherty earned 14 Emmy nominations (and won three).  
    He’s been less successful as a feature director.  His debut film, 1988’s 18 Again!, was a starring vehicle for the 92-year-old George Burns. A pleasant enough picture, it came late in the cycle of body-switch comedies that included Like Father Like Son (1987), Vice Versa and Big (both 1988). Flaherty’s reunion with SCTV colleague John Candy, Who’s Harry Crumb?, was a disappointment. His final feature, 1994’s family-friendly Clifford, starred another SCTV alum, Martin Short. Caught up in the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures, it ended up a box-office disaster. Paul Flaherty turns 72 today.