Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989)

Director: Paul Flaherty
Writers: Robert Conte, Peter Wortmann (as Peter Martin Wortmann)
Stars: John Candy, Jeffrey Jones, Shawnee Smith

The magical John Candy plays the titular character, the latest in a long and prestigious line of great detectives. Unfortunately (not for us though), the Crumb genius seems to have not been gifted to Harry as he is accident prone, clumsy, bumbling and incompetent to say the least. But is there more to Harry than meets than eye and is he truly worthy of the Crumb name?

We see Jennifer Downing (Renée Coleman) about to receive treatment at a luxurious health spa before she is abducted. Her parents go to a private detective agency where they consult with Crumb executive Eliot Draison (A brilliant Jones). Draison tells them he has just the man to help them and solve the case. We are then introduced to Harry Crumb himself who is in disguise while taking photographs of a couple enjoying a romantic get together which does not go altogether too well.

Soon enough Harry gets the call (he has his own little office in the middle of nowhere town) from his rather loud receptionist that he is wanted back at the head office. Happy to finally be recognised for his greatness, Harry heads off where after a disastrous meeting with Draison, he meets the Downing family. As you can imagine, much chaos and hilarity ensue as Harry, with help from Nikki (Smith) try to solve the case and find Jennifer.

Now this is a curious film. It was pretty much universally panned by both critics and reviewers alike upon release but I feel this particular film has a special place amongst not only Candy fans, but fans of eighties comedy. It is severely underrated and I think considering the awful Cannonball Fever and the widely known Uncle Buck were both released the same year, this film was always going to struggle to find a place and make its mark.

The direction by Flaherty is reasonable though he is more known for his writing (Billy Crystal, Tracy Ulman etc) and overall production values are good. With a pretty solid cast where everyone plays their parts well this is certainly an above average comedy and should be more widely known. If the idea of John Candy playing an incompetent detective in a variety of bad disguises sounds like your thing, I’m sure you’ll find lots of laughs within this gem of a comedy.

The Sage’s Rating:

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