Another exhibit to prove the dire state of film humor is this hostage comedy – how’s that for a contradiction in terms? – about a jealous husband who threatens to blow up a luxury-car showroom in Queens. Tim Robbins (Bull Durham) is Larry, the rifle-toting nut case who rides his motorcycle through the plate-glass window of Turgeon Auto, demanding to know which of the salesmen and customers have been screwing his wife, Turgeon’s receptionist (An-nabella Sciorra). Salesman Joey O’Brien, played by Robin Williams, says he did the dirty deed. Joey, with a bitter ex-wife, a defiant teenage daughter and a domineering mother, has two neurotic girlfriends, but Larry’s wife is not one of them. He’s lying to protect the real culprit, Turgeon Jr. Joey figures if he can shield the boss’s son, he’ll save his shaky job. And if he can persuade Larry to let the hostages go, he’ll vindicate his reputation as a man who can sell anything.
Williams is an actor of protean gifts, a super pitchman when it comes to putting across flimsy material (Dead Poets Society). But even he can’t palm off this lemon as a peach. When it’s not being offensive, Ken Friedman’s screenplay is merely oafish. Barking dogs, insulting Chinese waitresses (“No eat, no seat”) and sassy old ladies (“Don’t jerk me around”) are sitcom fodder. For sophistication, Friedman utilizes words not permitted on network TV (“You’re an ass half; it would take two of you to make an asshole”).
Cadillac Man lacks even the courage of its own appalling convictions; it wants to be liked. Instead of the gritty realism of Dog Day Afternoon – a true story about hostages in a Brooklyn bank – this film keeps displaying its bogus heart. The script sets up Joey as a compulsive liar and Larry as a raving psychotic. Then it asks that we accept them as good-natured,misunderstood slobs. Cocktail director Roger Donaldson is again trying to sell swill as ambrosia. In the process, a fine cast, including Robbins, Pamela Reed as Joey’s wife and Fran Drescher as Joey’s flakiest girlfriend, is rear-ended, and the audience is taken for a ride.