CHANCES ARE, you saw this in the preview for "Quick Change": Bill Murray, dressed as a clown, puts a big, floppy foot inside the door of a Manhattan bank, just as a guard is about to close up. When Murray shows that he's rigged with dynamite, the guard asks, "What kind of clown are you?"
"The crying-on-the-inside kinda clown, I guess," says Murray.
That's one of several amusing moments in "Change," an excuse of a movie to let Murray be Murray. Fortunately, he happens to be a funny man.
It's not so fortunate that Murray co-directed this movie with Howard Franklin, from Franklin's script. As a screenplay -- as a story -- "Change" is a silly mess. Its direction is also perfunctory, a bland rendition of the usual chain of Hollywood events. In addition to the aforementioned robbery, you will encounter a SWAT team, the usual gawking crowds behind police barricades and a jaded detective. Well, at least it's Jason Robards, not Charles Durning.
The familiar fare continues: There's the requisite race against the clock, as Murray and fellow bank heisters, Geena Davis and Randy Quaid, get caught in the labyrinthine bowels of New York, trying to make that getaway escape to the airport. There's an incessant, synthetic R&B suspense theme from music scorer Randy Edelman (Randy's past credits include "The Care Bears" album).
The usual capery complications abound. There's a requisite on-again-off-again romance between Murray and Davis. The mafia, naturally, come into this . . . . Do producers just choose these plot elements from a list of multiple choices?
The answer is yes.
Yet, despite the fact that "Change" lags and lopes along toward an inevitable, trite conclusion, it also leaves itself wide open for funny moments. The movie's amusing precisely when it's larking around and when it's sidetracking. Lost in darkest, dangerous New York, for instance, Murray, Davis and Quaid suddenly stumble into an urban, otherworldly version of a Sergio Leone duel:
A man on a bicycle, carrying a broom, crosses himself, lowers the broom to jousting position, then cycles (in slow motion) towards his similarly armed opponent, while a grim, funereal collection of people watches and a mournful dirge plays over the soundtrack.
"It's bad luck just seeing a thing like that," says a nervous Quaid.
There are also two ticklish cameos, one from Philip Bosco, as a compulsive bus driver obsessed with exact change and keeping passengers behind the white line; and another from Tony Shalhoub, as an all-purpose-foreign cab driver who speaks no English, appears not to understand traffic lights and whose favorite word seems to be "Blaftoni."
But the main reason to watch "Change" is for Murray, of course. And no matter what formulaic claptrap is around him, he always redeems it with something comic. When detective Robards, following hostage-negotiation protocol, says "At least gimme the women," Murray replies testily: "Get your own women." QUICK CHANGE (R) --