There are some wickedly funny bits of business throughout "Greedy," but they come and go rather fleetingly as the movie too often attempts to become a '90s version of "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World," with an ensemble supporting cast of comic players who are loud and zany . . . but not very funny.
Michael J. Fox gets top billing for his role as the only member of a large family who isn't after his uncle's millions. Kirk Douglas plays the uncle, a conniving wheel-chair-bound codger who deliberately pits family members against each other, taking mean-spirited pleasure in their efforts to cozy up to him.
As the film opens, with various family members stepping all over each other in their futile efforts to please him, Douglas has taken a young "companion" into his mansion, a pizza-delivery girl he has appointed as his "nurse" (Olivia d'Abo).
The family is sure she will clean Douglas out, leaving nothing for them, so they call on Fox, whose father left the family years before to pursue a number of noble causes. Fox is a professional bowler whose girlfriend (Nancy Travis) is a successful TV sports producer (and Fox's conscience), and he agrees to come back into the fold, just because he wants to mend fences.
But once there, much to Travis' chagrin, Fox is swept up in the frenzy to become Douglas' favorite relative, so he can inherit the money.
There are some inventive twists and turns in the plotting here, and Fox and Douglas work very well together (as do Fox and Travis). But the extended family members despite being played by talented comic actors (Ed Begley Jr., Phil Hartman, Colleen Camp, Bob Balaban, Joyce Hyser, etc.) are obnoxious and lowbrow, and much of their comic business just doesn't jell.
This style of comedy is quite delicate, and veteran screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell ("A League of Their Own," "City Slickers," "Parenthood") and director Jonathan Lynn ("My Cousin Vinney," "The Distinguished Gentleman") stumble in their attempt to be wild and crazy in some scenes and warm and fuzzy in others.
Director Lynn also plays Douglas' English butler here, and he gets a few chuckles as a wry, sarcastic observer of the goings-on. But his one-liners here illustrate the sitcom level that much of the movie settles for, with results that are more chaotic than funny.
Still, there are a few laughs and in the scenes between Fox and
Douglas and Fox and Travis there is some much-needed warmth.
The film also demonstrates that some of our older actors, though infrequently cast and then underused remain cinematic treasures. Douglas steals every scene he's in, and seems to do so effortlessly.
"Greedy" is rated PG-13 but is too raunchy for youngsters. There is considerable profanity, vulgarity, nudity and comic violence.