A Michael J. Fox Film Festival

I’ve been seeing Michael J Fox in the news recently and it got me thinking about my favorite Michael J Fox movies. The second thing I think of – after the “Back to the Future” movies – is a trilogy of great comedies that he starred in.

The Secret of My Success (1987) – Brantley Foster (Michael J Fox), a college graduate from Kansas, comes to New York City to make it big. However, the job that hired him is bankrupt and no one else will hire him. So, he takes his parents advice and contacts Howard Prescott (Richard Jordan), a distant relative that heads a multi-million-dollar company. Howard gives him a chance and puts him in an entry-level position in the mailroom. While working in the mailroom he starts to read company memos and messages which illustrate how badly the company is doing. So, he starts working in a vacant office under the name Carlton Whitfield to try to improve the company while continuing to work in the mailroom under the watchful eye of the mailroom supervisor “call me God” (Christopher Murney).

Michael J Fox is great starring in his first comedy movie. (Some might say “Back to the Future” and “Teen Wolf” are comedies – but I’d say they’re primarily action adventure or fantasy movies. I believe this is his first true comedy). He juggles a double life between being Brantley Foster in the mailroom and Carlton Whitfield in the executive offices. Things get more complicated when Brantley has an affair with Vera Prescott (Margaret Whitton) – who he later discovers is Howard’s wife – and Carlton falls for fellow executive Christy Wills (Helen Slater) – who he later discovers is having an affair with Howard.

The problems I have with this movie are mostly about story. There happens to be an empty office for him to work in after an executive gets fired. The company is in the middle of a hostile takeover, so when Carlton Whitefield suddenly appears the other executives figure he’s a spy sent from the other company. In the mailroom, Brantley happens to be the guy assigned to drive Vera Prescott to her house. This leads to his affair with “Auntie Vera” (since she’s Uncle Howards wife). Too many coincidences in the story.

Also, there’s some unfunny and gratuitous scenes in the movie. Fox example: The couple in the apartment next door have loud sex which shakes a wall in his apartment, keeping him awake.

I give it a 7 out of 10.

For Love of Money (1993) – Doug Ireland (Michael J Fox) is a fast-talking concierge at a luxury hotel in New York City who saves all his money in hopes of opening his dream hotel. He gets in contact with investor Christian Hanover (Anthony Higgins) who has enough money to make the hotel a reality. While Christian is considering investing in the hotel, he asks Doug for help taking care of his mistress Andy Hart (Gabrielle Anwar) who Doug falls for.

The best scenes in this movie are when Doug is doing his concierge work, hustling for the guests staying at the hotel. Scenes like when he gets last minute dinner reservations, bargains with other hotel concierge for tickets to shows, concerts, and sporting events, and when he takes hotel guests to a shop to get deals on expensive watches, jewelry, and cameras.

This is one of the first movies from director Barry Sonnenfeld (“Get Shorty”, the “Men in Black” movies). You can start to see the director’s quirky style that’s also seen in his other movies. This movie is filled with funny characters like Milton Glickman (Fyvush Finkel) – the bellboy who always brings the guests bags to their hotel room in ONE TRIP (no matter how many bags there are), Gene Salvatore (Dan Hedaya) – the rich guy who wants Doug to walk his dogs (“make sure they mate”) and wants more of those “little tings” (the mints they put on the pillows at night), and Jullian Russell (Isaac Mizrahi – in one of the only movies where he’s not playing himself) – a temperamental fashion designer. There’s even once scene with a funny guy in the elevator played by the director.

The only problem I have with this movie is that the story is pretty cliché. There’s been several stories of the rich man who has a girlfriend (or daughter, or wife) that the not-so-rich man falls for. It’s even a subplot in “The Secret of My Success”.

I give it 8 out of 10.

Greedy (1994) – Uncle Joe (Kirk Douglas) is a millionaire who has several relatives that are kissing up to him while they wait/hope for him to die so they can inherit his money. When Daniel (Michael J Fox) was young, his father moved him away from the family to get away from all the greed. Now, Daniel is a bowler trying to get into a professional league when the relatives lure him back to his uncle.

Directed by Jonathan Lynn (“My Cousin Vinny”, “Clue”, “The Whole Nine Yards”) and written by award winners Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (“Splash”, “City Slickers”, “Parenthood”). This is a very funny comedy with some great actors including Michael J Fox, Kirk Douglas, Phil Hartman, and Ed Begley Jr. Even the director has a small part as Uncle Joe’s butler.

There are quite a few funny scenes of the relatives trying to outdo or backstab each other. For example: One relative has only sons name Joe. Another relative has sons named “Joe” and daughters named “Josephina”. Also, the main story of Daniel trying to decide if he should stay with Uncle Joe, his big house, and his money or leave to go back to being an amateur bowler is fairly unique.

However, the main problem I have with the movie is with the young “nurse” Molly (Olivia d’Abo) who has moved in with Joe. Molly keeps implying that if she has sex with Joe, it’ll kill him. It’s an old joke that I’ve never thought was funny.

I give it 7 out of 10.