- Movie Rating -

Burglar (1987)

| March 20, 1987

Burglar is an action comedy of such absurd stupidity that during its last half hour I found myself involuntarily muttering: “Aw, come on.”  This happens to me occasionally when a movie is droning on endlessly, has passed the point of wrapping up and just seems to keep going.  I wanted it to wrap up.  Really, it had wasted enough of my time.  The jokes didn’t work.  The plot was incomprehensible.  And Whoopi Goldberg found herself once again in a caper plot that was beneath her.

I don’t know what Hollywood thinks of her.  She proved herself a brilliant actress in The Color Purple; she is unique, funny, original and in command of her screen presence.  But what is she doing in a movie this stupid?  I guess execs want to milk her image with hopes of pulling out the kind of success that Eddie Murphy had with Beverly Hills Cop.  What does that say about the state of being in Hollywood?  She’s funny, she’s black, she’s popular, so all we can think to do is put her in a less-than-zero caper comedy where she plays a motor-mouth?

The movie, as I understand it, was based on a character created by novelist Lawrence Block.  The lead character in the book was a white man and was originally to be played by Bruce Willis with Whoopi was cast as his dog-washing neighbor.  But Willis turned it down, Whoopi moved into the lead and Bob Goldthwaite moved into the neighbor role.  It was not a shuffle game that paid off.

Whoopi plays Bernice Rhodenbar, a retired professional thief who is pulled out of retirement by a cop who is blackmailing her.  To get the money, she takes a job from a dental technician (Lesley Anne Warren) to steal back some jewelry from her ex-husband.  While robbing the husband’s apartment, he is murdered by an unknown assailant, leaving Bernice the only suspect.  So, naturally, she has to clear her name and solve the murder.

Okay, there’s a story there, but the movie takes the bumpiest road to get there.  The investigation is more or less incomprehensible, the jokes are juvenile and the solution to the mystery (which comes down to an absurd case of homophobia) is just plain stupid.  No one seems to know what direction that movie is suppose to take.  It is suppose to be an action comedy but it fails on both counts.  Added to that a volley of irritating supporting players – most of whom are useless – up to an including Bob Goldthwaite whose screaming act brings the movie to a dead halt.

Again, I was irritated by all of this, and so it didn’t surprise me that the movie came from the director of Police Academy and the writer of Teen Wolf.  Its a case of success-over-expectation, in which studio executives have just glued together pieces and parts of more successful movies and added a popular comedian and hoped for a miracle.  Whoopi deserves much better than this.  She’s funny, she’s talented, she’s smart, she has a great screen presence.  Why waste her time and talent on this fumbling nonsense?  

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Comedy