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Film review: Pure Luck

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15 1991 12:00 a.m. MDT

"Pure Luck" is yet another Hollywood remake of a French comedy, following in the footsteps of such recent efforts as "Three Men and a Baby," and adaptations of Francis Veber's comedies for "The Toy," "The Man With One Red Shoe" and "Three Fugitives."

Veber himself directed the remake of "Three Fugitives," as his first American film, with Martin Short and Nick Nolte in the leads. For "Pure Luck," a remake of Veber's "Le Chevre," Short was again enlisted, this time paired with Danny Glover. But Veber is listed as executive producer, leaving the directing chores to someone else.

That may be part of the problem with "Pure Luck," which pales in comparison to what was, admittedly, a slight comedy anyway.

It always amazes me that remakes of foreign films are so faithful to the original, when you might think pains would be taken to improve the material. After all, Hollywood has a history of being less than faithful with source material in general, especially books.

But here we are again, with "Pure Luck" being virtually a frame-for-frame copy of the first movie. And all of the original's weaknesses are here intact.

The story has the world's unluckiest young woman (a very well cast Sheila Kelley, who is quite charming) on a vacation in Mexico when she is involved in an accident that leaves her with amnesia. A slimy underworld character (Scott Wilson, in a nice comic performance) picks her up and decides to hold her for ransom. But, she can't remember who she is.

Meanwhile, stateside, her wealthy father (Sam Wanamaker) decides to send a detective (Danny Glover) who specializes in missing people to find her, but he is unsuccessful.

Then the staff psychiatrist (Harry Shearer) for Wanamaker's company gets an idea. How about sending the world's unluckiest man to follow in her footsteps? Maybe fate will lead him to her.

The prime candidate is one of Wanamaker's accountants (Martin Short), the kind of guy who will go into a boardroom containing 30 chairs and sit in the broken one.

It isn't long before Short is teamed with the reluctant Glover and they are in Mexico looking for Kelley.

The idea here, of course, is to pair two likable stars in yet another odd-couple action comedy, but, despite their earnest performances, there isn't a lot of chemistry between Glover and Short, the way there was, for example, between Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in "Silver Streak" and "Stir Crazy" or Glover and Mel Gibson in the "Lethal Weapon" films.

The slapstick here is very broad, with Short mugging at every opportunity and Glover offering an Oliver Hardy slow burn as a reaction. Things pick up a bit late in the film when it appears that Glover has managed to catch Short's bad luck streak.

And the running gag about Short being arrogant because he thinks he knows more than he does, which seems to be a take on Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau, gets tiresome after awhile.

There are some very funny bits here and there, but that's hardly enough to sustain feature length, and too often the film bogs down with scenes that just don't work.

"Pure Luck" is rated PG for more violence than you might expect and a few scattered profanities.