Hit the road, 3.5 readers.
This flick was on all the time when I was a kid and now, as an adult, it mostly holds up.
When a psychiatrist decides to spring four of his group therapy patients from an asylum for the mentally ill to go to a baseball game in New York City, what could possibly go wrong?
Turns out, a lot. I mean, holy shit. In retrospect, Dr. Weitzman (Dennis Boutsikaris) was really bad at his job. Maybe this is why asylums don’t have field trips.
Billy (Michael Keaton) is a pathological liar with violent tendencies. Henry (Christopher Lloyd) is an obsessive-compulsive. He cannot stand disarray of any kind and if something is slightly amiss, he lets the perpetrator have it. So addicted to order is he that he actually dons a lab coat and deputizes himself as an unofficial psychiatrist, taking notes on all the infractions committed by his fellow inmates and submitting reports to the facility’s actual shrinks.
Jack (Peter Boyle) is an ex advertising executive who had it all, but walked away from it one day when he began believing that he was Jesus Christ, reborn again in human form.
And finally, Albert (Stephen Furst) is mostly catatonic, unable to communicate unless he speaks in the manner of baseball commentator Phil Rizzuto.
The plot thickens when, on the way to the game, the good doctor is jumped in an alley upon witnessing a murder. After he is rushed to the hospital in an unconscious state, the four mental patients become the obvious prime suspects, and from thereon, it is a mad dash for them to nab the real culprits, clear their names, and save the doc’s life, as they learn the killers (including a young James Remar who you may know as Dexter’s dad) plan to visit the doc in the hospital to rub him out so as to make sure that no witnesses to their crime are left.
This is a movie that probably wouldn’t fly today as it makes fun of the mentally ill, though ironically, even today, horror films abound where the villain is someone with a mental illness they couldn’t have avoided.
Meanwhile, once you get past all the jokes that goof on this quartet and their mental challenges, the film actually becomes somewhat of a touching cautionary tale. Often in flicks, there’s a backstory, a chilling tale behind how someone flipped their lid. Here, these are just men who, for whatever reason, were just living normal lives when they just up and lost it one day. Billy had a girlfriend that he reconnects with (a young Lorraine Bracco before she began treating Tony Soprano). Harry had a wife and kid before he became difficult to live with. We never learn why Albert can’t speak, but Jack had a life too.
And sure while there often is a single moment that someone can point to as the creation of all their problems, just as often, there isn’t. Sometimes people just have mental breakdowns. The mind breaks down, just as a vital organ breaks down.
None of these men are quote unquote “bad,” they’re just sick. (Although, to be honest, Billy is probably one massive freakout away from committing an actual crime). A tender hearted moment where Henry stops by his old house to ask his wife for help and realizes he could one day move back home if he could just learn to control his OCD is touching.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Oh and there’s a sad reference where Billy points to the twin towers and lies about being the head architect on the project, and that it was his idea to built a second tower. Damn you, Al Qaeda!