It seems churlish to kick Michael J. Fox when he’s already down after his star turn in the cloying Life With Mikey. His dramatic role in Casualties of War proved he could do more than trade on the brash charm that made him a star in Back to the Future. But his fans weren’t buying, so Hollywood keeps chasing Fox into warm and fuzzy corners.
For Love or Money stars Fox as Doug Ireland, a brash — what else? — concierge for a posh Manhattan hotel. The idea for the movie came from producer Brian Grazer, and it’s a promising one, recalling Billy Wilder’s darkly comic The Apartment. For guests at the Bradbury, Doug procures everything from showgirls to tickets for the shows they’re in. He goes along when Hanover (Anthony Higgins), a married entrepreneur, asks him to baby-sit his young mistress, Andy (Gabrielle Anwar). Doug figures Hanover will help him buy his own hotel, but he doesn’t figure on falling for Andy — or finding his conscience.
It took four screenwriters to turn a potent premise into mush. There’s some compensation in a solid supporting cast, especially Fyvush Finkel of TV’s Picket Fences as the world’s oldest bellboy. But director Barry Sonnenfeld shows little of the wicked spirit he brought to The Addams Family.
As lovers, Fox and Anwar strike few romantic sparks; she’s rather wan compared with her tango turn with Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. And there’s a desperation to the jokes that’s exhausting. Fox is so puppy-dog eager to please he would probably hump your leg. But his one-note performance, like this misfire of a movie, has no bite.