On the Money Train

A train drives through the outfield during the Hackensack Bulls’ minor league games, pausing Richard Pryor’s stint as starting pitcher. That same train could drive through Brewster’s Millions plot holes.

Never mind that. Given the limited rules, Pryor has the potential to spend $30 million in a day, let alone a month, allowing him to receive the full $300 million left to him. Brewster’s Millions isn’t inherently about the ridiculous inheritance scheme. Rather, the shame of excess and how preposterous it is to have that much money.

Brewster’s Millions came to the screen multiple times prior (based on George Barr McCutheon’s 1902 novel). For the ‘80s though, the story seems right, precisely mocking the affluent and the things they buy and own. Or, in Pryor’s case, just buying. He can’t own anything – so goes the rule.

Brewster’s Millions merely feels stuck and low-key, a message more than a comedy

It’s an enthusiastic film, even with Pryor and co-star John Candy mostly subdued. A PG rating further removes Pryor from his comedic talents. The fantasy holds Brewster’s Millions together, spending most of its time in a panic as Pryor throws out ludicrous numbers until it’s realized even that’s not enough. Pryor’s Brewster spent his life aiming to play pro baseball, stuck in the minors, and never knowing a living wage. Those numbers – thousands per week paid to people for almost nothing – barely dent his wealth.

Money makes crazy, and money makes privilege. Brewster’s Millions shows it’s difficult to spend, if only because wealth creates wealth. He tried gambling; he wins. He bets on an idiotic iceberg stock; millions roll in. What’s impossible to do on a single A minor league player’s salary suddenly turns into an increasing cash reserve.

The lesson here is to hate money – that’s the reason for this whole ordeal. After the initial brush with wealth, depression sets in. With few exceptions, there’s disgust surrounding Pryor, from corruption to jealousy. Then comes the political campaign, with countless dollars spent on a slogan: “I’m buying your vote.” Money keeps supporters coming, because the allure, the fantasy of being one of “them” is effectively an American value (and doubly so during the ‘80s).

Directed by Walter Hill, Brewster’s Millions feels out of the director’s element. Hill’s prior 48 Hrs. let Eddie Murphy loose, and The Warriors’ violence still resonates. Brewster’s Millions merely feels stuck and low-key, a message more than a comedy. The Candy/Pryor pair raises expectations, and then fails. Still, a worthy do-over in a decade that needed this story.

Video

Shout debuts Brewster’s Millions to Blu-ray on their Shout Select line. The look is of something not recently mastered, but passable. Generous with softness and lacking sharpness, detail sinks. A few close-ups bring marginal texture, if nothing exciting. New York appears dull in the few aerials.

Grain carries natural spunk, and the print itself doesn’t show any dirt or damage. Whenever this scan was done, the clean-up team did their part. Color performs well too, invigorating the Bulls’ jerseys with reds and blues. Saturation keeps up.

So too does contrast, lively and energetic throughout. A meeting in a dark alley between rival politicians shows the presentation’s full black level potential. Shadows keenly hit their mark, with proper attention paid to shadow detail.

Audio

Uncompressed DTS-HD stereo doesn’t rise above minimal. It’s flat, meager, and thin. The score barely warrants attention even during the credits. Dialog barely registers, worn down through decades.

Aside from crowd scenes, there’s no split otherwise noted. Brewster’s Millions sticks to a centered approach.

Extras

Critics William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold provide a commentary, and Shout finds writer Herschel Weingrad for an interview. He chats for 11-minutes.

The best bonus though is the 1945 Brewster’s Millions, included in full. While in desperate need of restoration, the scan looks fantastic, with better resolution than the main feature.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Brewster's Millions
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A better wealth fable than a comedy, Richard Prior and John Candy can’t spark Brewster’s Millions to success, but it’s a perfect ’80s story.

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