Film review: Quick Change

Published: Tuesday, July 17 1990 12:00 a.m. MDT

Like a frenzied cross between "A Fish Called Wanda" and "After Hours," Bill Murray's new comedy "Quick Change" is a delightful romp that generously allows the unknowns who dot the large supporting cast to garner the biggest laughs.

Murray, who also coproduced and codirected, stars as Grimm, another name for his usual lovable wise-guy persona. This time he's a disgruntled city planner who plots a daring bank robbery in the middle of Manhattan.

Dressed as a clown, in full makeup and costume, Murray travels to the bank by subway — and, of course, no one notices him.

The robbery, with Murray's girlfriend (Geena Davis) and his childhood best friend (Randy Quaid) assisting, goes smoothly enough, despite the exasperated efforts of the police chief (Jason Robards) to put a halt to it.

The robbery is a delightful opening segment that makes up the film's first third or so. It's an inventive twist on a well-worn theme. But then "Quick Change" shifts gears to become something of a chase comedy, as the trio tries to drive to JFK Airport for a flight to Fiji.

Thanks to the kind of people we expect to run into in New York, they find that getting to the airport isn't as easy as they first thought.

And therein lies the film's greatest joys, as they encounter goofball after goofball, each funnier than the last. There's the uptight bus driver (Philip Bosco) who goes strictly by the rules, the cabbie (Tony Shalhoub) who speaks no English, the mobsters who mistake Murray and friends for bagmen, the kid with the guitar who can't get on the bus, etc. Bob Elliott (of Bob & Ray fame) is also good as the bank guard who embellishes the story of the robbery, making himself more of a hero each time he tells it.

Some of these moments are hilarious, bringing to mind the old British caper comedies of the '50s. And the picture is brimming with great character actors, each with some wacky piece of business attached to the character, a trait from the golden age of movie comedy that seems to have been tossed aside by many modern moviemakers.

Murray, Davis and Quaid make a very good team, with Davis in particular adding charm and depth to her character. And the direction by Murray and his collaborator Howard Franklin is usually on the mark, allowing for sight gags in the background, and the script, by Franklin (adapting Jay Cronley's novel) has some great dialogue and situations.

Occasionally a joke falls flat and there are a couple of slow-moving moments, but for the most part "Quick Change" is a winner with a lot of laughs.

And it's certainly a nice respite from the current bloody comic fare.

"Quick Change" is rated R, for use of the infamous Eddie Murphy Word a few times. This is in PG territory, despite the profanity, a couple of vulgar jokes and some tame violence.