It was a sign of the times that Rodney Dangerfield was rejected for inclusion by the American Academy; Caddyshack is one of the great comedies of the 80’s, or any era, and Dangerfield parlayed his bug-eyed class-warfare shtick to several successful films including Back to School and Easy Money, both of which were number one box-office hits. There’s pretty much no outlet for this kind of film in 2022, yet Dangerfield’s routines, with a comedy persona honed from decades of club and tv work, still plays pretty well today.
Easy Money, co-written by the late, great PJ O’Rourke and directed by James Signorelli, takes a long time to get to a familiar situation; Monty loves booze, spliffs, over-eating and over-indulging; when he discovers his mother-in-law has passed away, he’s thrilled at the prospect of increased freedom. Her passing comes with a catch: Monty has three months to reform his character, or he won’t get a share of the old gal’s loot.
Easy Money takes about 40 minutes to establish Monty’s vices before we cue predictable but effective gags about unattractive salads, with Joe Pesci on hand as Monty’s encouraging pal, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Monty’s daughter, and Jeffrey Jones as his rival. Tom Noonan turns up in a role clearly intended for Bill Murray, and there’s a fair roster of talent involved.
Dangerfield’s comedy largely came from a concerted attack on snobbery, which makes it ironic that his work wasn’t valued by an atrophied elite who failed to move with the times. Like Groucho Marx, Dangerfield didn’t fancy any club that would accept him as a member, and refused the Academy’s offer when they finally came back to him. No matter; Dangerfield laughed all the way to the back, and his comic persona is shown in a good light here; it’s all reckless, irresponsible fun. And yes, Easy Money comes complete with a Billy Joel title song. What more could you want?