Daniel Stephens reviews one of John Candy’s less notable films, with this region 1 edition of Armed and Dangerous.
John Candy doesn’t seem to have that defining film that everyone remembers – the one that proved him to be a comic great, but that’s no bad thing. From the late, great friendly giant he’ll always be remembered for individual standout roles like his bit-parts in Volunteers, Stripes, Spaceballs and Little Shop Of Horrors, and his leading roles in Summer Rental, The Great Outdoors, Cool Runnings and Who’s Harry Crumb?. His comic style was always that which warmed the heart despite some of his films not nearly living up to his level of talent, and while Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Uncle Buck are probably the films that he is most remembered for, he was perfectly happy quietly keeping his fans laughing their arses off, leaving his comic colleagues to make the standout work.
Throughout his career he worked with some of America’s best known comedians, some several times, and he always seemed to excel with someone who could hold their own with a throwaway one-liner or a crass visual gag. Chevy Chase held him at gunpoint and forced him to go on rollercoasters in Harold Ramis’ National Lampoon’s Vacation, while Ramis and Bill Murray starred together alongside Candy in Stripes. He saw Rick Moranis sing with a man-eating plant in Little Shop Of Horrors, helped Tom Hanks with his mermaid problem in Splash and had to deal with troublesome Dan Aykroyd in holiday film The Great Outdoors. And who can forget Barfolemew ‘Barf’, the big cuddly bear in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs, or the teaming with comic great Richard Pryor in Brewster’s Millions. Candy’s best work showed up when there was a class act right beside him which is probably why Steve Martin and Candy’s drive home for Thanksgiving in John Hughes’ Planes, Trains And Automobiles sees his best and most unforgettable performance, and while Armed And Dangerous doesn’t possess the credentials of Hughes’ 1987 comedy great, it does live off the chemistry between Candy and co-star Eugene Levy.
In Armed And Dangerous Candy plays Frank Dooley, a well-meaning police officer who just so happens to catch two dirty cops as they rob a store of electrical goods. Unfortunately they overpower him, and when reinforcements arrive they swindle a story to make out Dooley as the culprit, and he loses his job. Meanwhile, Norman Lane (Eugene Levy), an unsure and downright terrible attorney, can’t keep his job after another failed court appearance. Being brought together by circumstance, Dooley and Lane find themselves partners at their new job working for a security service. On their first night guarding a warehouse, it is robbed and they are blamed for not doing their job properly but something isn’t quite right. Slowly but surely Dooley and Kane begin to put the pieces to the puzzle, and it soon becomes apparent their bosses might be planning a rather large scale robbery and they are the only ones standing in their way.
Candy and Levy work well together in the film – Candy’s the go-getter, Levy’s the hesitant sidekick and their individual comedy styles gel for what amounts to a rather good comic duo. Levy’s ‘two steps behind the rest of the world’ character is like the improvised work he’s done for Christopher Guest, only in slow-motion, and Candy’s at his bubbly best when the situation asks him to be a little more visual with his performance. The moment the pair have to escape their pursuers by hiding in an Sex shop and eventually switch clothes with a couple of crazy, gothic dressed gay men is priceless, especially when they act like a couple with Candy dressed as some sort of perverted madam, speaking like a drunk Richard Simmons. It’s a shame the script didn’t offer them a little more help, but Larry Hankin in a supporting role offers some fabulous moments as a dim-witted colleague breaking up some otherwise stale scenes. Director Mark L. Lester keeps everything moving along swiftly and the film has a warm feeling, almost as if it’s trying to tell you that they’ll be a happy ending by the time the credits roll, but the likes of Robert Loggia and Kenneth McMillan have little to do, and the romantic angle between Levy and Meg Ryan falls flat. But it’s the chemistry of Candy and Levy that make this film work, and yet despite a mediocre script and a one-note plot, they make this film worth watching.
The image is presented as 1.85:1 anamorphic enhanced widescreen, but there is also an option to view the film as full-frame 4:3. Although it tends to be a little soft throughout, the image is generally good with a little grain noticeable, especially in the darker scenes. Colours feel slightly grey and muted but skin tones are natural and darkly lit scenes are as clear as they need to be.
The English Dolby 2.0 track is like the image, in that it is a bit soft, with dialogue almost entirely positioned on the centre speaker not making it the most clear at times. Rear activity is mono and rarely apparent whilst the left and right speakers are active only to elaborate the music.
Trailers – Trailers for Hanky Panky, I Spy and Master Of Disguise. If anyone’s wondering: Hanky Panky is definitely worth checking out, whilst I Spy and Master Of Disguise are better left to rot on the shelf.
Armed And Dangerous isn’t one of Candy’s most notable works, and while the team-up of Eugene Levy and Candy could have been better, this is still a film worth checking out. The disc is adequate, if totally void of any additional features, but the fact the film is available in its original aspect ratio and anamorphic enhanced, is probably its biggest selling point.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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