Saturday, August 15, 2009

Movie Log: The Wrong Guy

I don't feel bad about missing The Wrong Guy, because everyone missed The Wrong Guy. It's a Dave Foley vehicle from 1997 -- back when it seemed like "a Dave Foley vehicle" could be a category; probably filmed in the hiatus after NewsRadio's first season -- that has something of the feel of mid-period Kids in the Hall.

The most important thing for me to note about The Wrong Guy is that it's funny. Really, really funny. Almost all the time, and every time it tries to be funny. I had low expectations going in -- and who wouldn't, with a movie this obscure and only twelve years old? -- but there were more good laughs in the first ten minutes than I expected from the whole movie.

Foley plays one of his standard KitH characters, the nebbishy office worker who works pretty hard and is terribly nice, but has vast reservoirs of dew behind his ears and is fated never to get anywhere. In this case, that guy is Nelson Hibbert, VP of something at a random corporation, engaged to the retiring boss's daughter, and sure that he's going to be the next president.

He isn't, of course; his office rival is marrying the boss's favorite daughter. Nelson makes threats in the boardroom, then retreats to his office to bawl like a little girl. And then goes to confront the boss, one-on-one -- only to find him dead, with a dagger in his back. Nelson assumes that everyone else will assume that he killed the boss -- particularly after a hysterical (in both sense of the word) scene in which Nelson screams, grabs the dagger, and gets blood all over himself -- and so he goes on the run.

The movie mostly focuses on Nelson's sub-Fugitive exploits from there, intercut with scenes of the detectives who know he didn't do it (but think the real killer, whose picture they have, is much too professional for them to have a chance to catch him), and with that killer, whose escape plans Nelson keeps interfering with.

Along the way, Nelson finds love, and there's a big confrontation among all of those characters -- in a very silly way; The Wrong Guy obliterates the common comedy problem of having a suspenseful climax that's still funny -- after which it all ends happily, since this is a comedy.

The Wrong Guy is one of the funniest movies I've ever seen -- it's so full of generally smart humor (with a few dumb gags for spice) that I'm tempted to start giving away the best parts. (Like the nature of Nelson's new girlfriend's father's business, and his nemesis -- it's subtle, but completely hilarious.) But I won't; this is a movie people should see for themselves. Yes, you've never heard of it. I have no idea what happened to it in theaters, and why there isn't a cult around it -- it's that funny. I have to assume that even we legion of KitH fans haven't heard of it, that it really is as obscure as it seems.

That's a shame, but the great thing about an obscure movie is that it allows you to discover it. No one can feel smart for appreciating Annie Hall or It Happened One Night or even The 40-Year-Old Virgin. But The Wrong Guy is a movie that can be discovered and loved; I hope you will.


Anna C. Morrison said...

I've never heard of this, but I'll hit up Netflix and give it a try. Thanks for turning me on to this sleeper.

Matthew J. Brady said...

Well, you convinced me. To Netflix!

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