After stumbling in "Life With Mikey" earlier this year, Michael J. Fox is back in form with "For Love or Money," an old-fashioned screwball comedy in which he is well-cast as the hustling, manipulative concierge for a major Manhattan hotel.
And it doesn't hurt that the film is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld ("The Addams Family"), who keeps his swooping camera a little more in check but still pushes his rapid-fire comic instincts for all they're worth.
The plot has Fox as a cocky go-getter who works overtime for those $100 tips, providing his high-rolling patrons with whatever they need. He doesn't care about Joe Ordinary who offers him $5, he says, though we see him taking pity on a hapless fellow (Michael Tucker) whose wife would like to be courted again. And he also comes to the defense of the world's oldest, most eccentric bellboy (Fyvish Finkel, who is very funny).
But Fox's integrity gets a workout when he gets one of his clients to line him up with a potential investor, a slimy entrepreneur played with unctuous ooze by Anthony Higgins. Fox has a dream of owning his own hotel and Higgins has the money he needs. But in return, Fox finds himself being used by Higgins in ways that compromise even his low-level sense of ethics.
As well as becoming Higgins' all-around lackey, Fox must also repeatedly babysit the married Higgins' mistress, a perfume counter saleswoman (Gabrielle Anwar), whom Fox has been attracted to. But at least now he understands why she won't give him a tumble.
As you can guess, romance blossoms between Fox and Anwar, which could foul up Fox's hotel plans. And there are few plot surprises as the story progresses.
The saving grace, however, is the inventive comic manipulations that throw Fox's character into a variety of complicated and sometimes very funny situations.
A slick Hollywood comedy, tailor-made for Fox's charming screen persona, "For Love or Money" is a wonderfully funny ride most of the way, with enough laughs to forgive its occasional lapses.
The film is rated PG for some profanity, a few sexual gags and some partly obscured female nudity in a shower scene.
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