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Twists in 'Greedy' Make for a Generous Payoff

March 03, 1994|LYNN SMITH | Lynn Smith is a staff writer for The Times' View section.

In "Greedy," a group of back-stabbing relatives, panicked that their manipulative old Uncle Joe (Kirk Douglas) is about to will his millions to a shapely live-in "nurse," seeks help from his long-lost favorite, Danny (Michael J. Fox), who then gets sucked into the family rivalry. (Rated PG-13) This being a sneak preview, hardly anyone knew what to expect, except that they were about to see a movie with Kirk Douglas and Michael J. Fox.

As it turned out, it was the ever-twisting and thickening plot that stole the show.

Was Uncle Joe playing mind games to see who really loved him? Was he really rich or was he really in debt? Was Danny trying to deceive him?

"They should have named it 'Deception,' " said Matt Khalil, 11. "I loved it."

Some adults found the movie dragged some and the ending predictable. But even older kids said they were hugely surprised by the final plot twist.

"It was a good movie, better than I expected," said Heather Cohn, 19. "Normally, I fall asleep in movies, and I didn't fall asleep in this one."

Added John Cannon, 22: "I thought it was great. It was very hilarious. The whole plot was just excellent. Great twists. Very funny. The ending was just spectacular."

Cannon, a fan of "Saturday Night Live," especially liked the performance of SNL regular Phil Hartman as one of the sleazier cousins who has no problem with trading all respect and dignity for his chance at a fortune.

Some in the audience cheered when Hartman--his perfect image shattered at a family dinner by his defiant teen-ager's "Make me!" retort--actually picks up the boy and whisks him away to the next room.

Not only do the relatives cover up their own imperfections to gain Uncle Joe's favor, but they also hire private detectives to spy on one another to discredit their rivals for the inheritance. They undergo sex-selection fertilization to ensure they will produce male heirs. Those who don't name their girls with variations of Joe. They bring him $400 stuffed birds for his collection because "you have to spend money to make money."

To show up his relatives, Danny even performs his boyhood Jimmy Durante imitation Uncle Joe used to love.

Kenneth Kawaguchi, 9, was impressed with a black-and-white clip of a Durante performance that introduces the movie. He didn't know who Durante was before the movie, and he didn't know afterward. But still, he was impressed.

Parents who are concerned about language (and even those who usually are not) should be warned that a number of the laughs rely on colorful insults and swearing.

Those who are concerned about sex or nudity should know that many of the other laughs rely on whether "Nurse" Molly will sleep with the frail, elderly Uncle Joe. We are also treated to the tattooed buns of Michael J. Fox, which some of us could live without.

In the end, Kenneth said he couldn't rank it with his all-time favorites. Given the choice, he said he'd probably put it in the other category of those "I might forget about tomorrow."

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