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Film review: Crazy People

Published: Wednesday, April 18 1990 12:00 a.m. MDT

"Crazy People" is a schizophrenic comedy that is very funny when it's a satire on modern advertising but loses both its wit and momentum when it becomes a sentimental variation on "The Dream Team," or, going back a bit farther, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Dudley Moore stars as a burned-out adman suffering a breakdown. But his insensitive partner (Paul Reiser) insists he come up with a series of high-profile ads for several major corporations overnight to appease their boss (J.T. Walsh), a loutish despot at the company where they work.

So Moore does just that, using an entirely new concept - truth.

Actually, the ads are not so much truthful as they are crass. But Moore feels they will tap into the everyday mindset of the common man.

Thus, his ad for Metamucil suggests that if customers don't use it, they will "get cancer and die!" And that a Volvo may be "boxy," but it's still a good car.

You get the idea.

This is funny stuff, but Moore's boss doesn't think so. So Moore is committed to a mental institution where he meets and falls in love with Daryl Hannah and befriends an assortment of lovable disturbed kooks.

Then, when the ads are accidentally distributed throughout the country, they take off. Moore's instincts are proven to be correct. People love them and sales zoom.

But Walsh and his crew can't grasp this "truth" concept. So they ask Moore to come back. He agrees to do more ads only if his friends - his fellow asylum inmates - can help.

Soon the asylum turns into a productive business center, as the film works toward a ludicrous climax.

One wonders why the script, by Mitch Markowitz ("Good Morning, Vietnam") isn't just a Madison Avenue satire. Instead of asylum crazies, why not have the supporting characters be the crazies who climb corporate ladders in high-rolling firms?

The tone is so different when the story is in adland as opposed to the asylum that there seem to be two different movies clashing about for 90 minutes. Would that the main story had been carried to its full potential, perhaps surrounded by plotting about Moore's private life or his relationship with partner Reiser or something more clever than taking it into a sanitarium.

There is also something rather annoying about Markowitz using so many gags that have four-letter words as punchlines, as if there is something inherently funny about profanity. And you can always tell a writer is desperate when there are no less than two flatulence gags and a joke about child molestation.

Still, some of the ads are hilarious, if unsuitable to repeat in a family newspaper. And Moore appears to be having a great time. (There are also some amusing moments provided by some of the supporting players.)

As it is, "Crazy People," rated R for profanity, vulgarity and brief nudity, seems like two films that add up to half a film.