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‘Who’s Harry Crumb?’ (PG-13)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 04, 1989

Who could resist the temptation to call "Who's Harry Crumb?" a crummy movie? Certainly no one who's been unfortunate enough to see this lumbering vehicle for portly comedian John Candy. Candy is Crumb, a bumbling detective who makes Henri Clouseau look like Sherlock Holmes. Oblivious to his own ineptitude, Candy/Crumb resorts to slight gags and punchless lines to solve every mystery except the obvious one: Why can't anyone from the SCTV comedy troupe make the transition to the big screen?

Harry Crumb, the last in a large line of detectives, has been exiled from the family agency for a decade while the smarmy Eliot Draisen (the smarmy Jeffrey Jones) runs the business in Los Angeles. When the California Draisen concocts a scheme that involves kidnaping his biggest client's daughter to get $10 million so he can run off with that same client's money-hungry wife, he calls in Crumb, assuming that his incompetence will reinforce rather than hinder the plan.

Of course, it doesn't.

"Who's Harry Crumb?" might have worked as a 20-minute skit, but the script (by Robert Conte and Peter Martin Wortmann) and the direction (by another SCTV alumnus, Paul Flaherty) are both sadly undernourished, which is certainly not the case with Candy. He remains a jovial character actor, but asking him to carry any film on those broad shoulders is a bit too much. The laughs are few and far between, even with Candy resorting to occasional disguises, and the humor has a depressing sense of de'ja` ha-ha.

Much better is Annie Potts as the scheming sexpot wife willing to switch allegiance at the drop of a new checking account. It's a long way from her goody-two-shoes role on "Designing Women," and there are times when she looks like Madonna's older sister, the one who could probably act. Shawnee Smith, as Candy's teen accomplice, looks like the younger sister of "Spaceballs' " Daphne Zuniga. All too much of "Who's Harry Crumb?" looks as if it should have been called "Who Cares?"

"Who's Harry Crumb?" contains some profanity and some brief titillation.

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