Though he only lived until the age of 43, John Candy managed to make a considerable impact on the comedy film world in the 1980s and early 1990s, bringing his likable everyman persona to a number of memorable comedies. Armed and Dangerous, a crime caper which reunites him with former SCTV co-star Eugene Levy, could have been one of them, but the two stars’ comic credentials aren’t enough to raise the level of the thin material; the listless direction does not do it any favors either. Image’s Blu-Ray is a serviceable effort that reveals the technical limitations of its cinematography.
Armed and Dangerous
Studio: Columbia Pictures (distributed by Image Entertainment)
Length: 88 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Languages: English PCM Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Film Release Date: August 15, 1986
Disc Release Date: August 16, 2011
Disc Review Date: August 11, 2011
Frank Dooley (John Candy) is an incompetent police officer whose latest screw-up gets him thrown off the force for good. Norman Kane (Eugene Levy) is an equally incompetent defense attorney whose pathetic attempt at plea bargaining has the judge recommending that he find another line of work. They both find themselves training to be security guards, and when Frank suggests they become partners, Norman agrees. After they successfully complete their training, they are required to join a union run by the shady Michael Carlino (Robert Loggia). On their first assignment, Frank and Norman witness the robbery of a pharmaceutical storage facility and fail to stop it. After being reprimanded for this by their boss, Captain O’Connell (Kenneth McMillan), Norman’s complaints to the union get them nowhere, leading he and Frank to suspect that the robbery may be an inside job pulled off by the union, while the Captain’s daughter Maggie (Meg Ryan) refuses to believe that her father is corrupt. After witnessing incriminating evidence at a party, it’s up to Frank and Norman to save the day.
The elements for an appealing comedy are all there. SCTV alums John Candy and Eugene Levy had already established themselves on screen in a number of films, Stripes, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Splash among them. The story and screenplay credited fellow SCTV alum Harold Ramis. Meg Ryan had made the transition from TV’s As The World Turns to films with her supporting role in Top Gun and was a few short years away from romantic comedy stardom thanks to When Harry Met Sally. Unfortunately, the whole of Armed and Dangerous is far less than the sum of its parts. Under the bland direction of Mark L. Lester, the laughs are few and far between, and the execution of the formulaic plot is listless. The whole concept of comic timing seems to be alien to him. John Carpenter was offered the chance to direct it but chose to do Big Trouble in Little China instead; while he could have handled the action sequences much better than Lester did with his lackluster treatment, perhaps Harold Ramis could have given the comedy scenes a much-needed boost. As co-writer and executive producer, Ramis was so dissatisfied with the end result that he asked Columbia to remove his executive producer credit; they complied. The inertia of the direction takes its toll on the two talented stars, who fail to make much out of the underdeveloped characters they’ve been given. Their chemistry should be much stronger than it is, but their performances suggest that they knew the material was lacking in comedic spark and narrative pull, and they gave up trying to salvage it. Nevertheless, there are a few amusing scenes and bits of dialogue, the most notable of which features John Candy in outrageous drag that calls to mind his impersonation of Divine on SCTV. But as a whole, Armed and Dangerous is just shooting blanks. The general public seems to have felt the same way; the film opened to poor reviews and a disappointing box office take of only $15,945,534, quickly collapsing in the face of such competition as Stand By Me, Top Gun, The Fly, Aliens, The Karate Kid Part II, Back to School, Ruthless People, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
At least it’s better than Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the transfer isn’t necessarily “bad” in the strictest technical sense, but it probably won’t be used in many home theater demos. While the color has a subdued palette with average saturation levels and warm, natural fleshtones, there is quite a bit of grain present, especially in dark scenes. Like many of the 1980s comedies that have turned up on Blu-Ray recently, this does not indicate problems with the transfer, but problems with Fred Schuler’s stylistically and technically deficient cinematography. Out of focus shots managed to slip through the cracks here and there, but most of the film is fairly sharp. There is no edge enhancement or DNR to report.
The film’s soundtrack is presented in PCM stereo. The acoustics of the film’s über-80s synthesized music are crisp and dynamic, the surround sound is utilized amply but not overwhelmingly, and the dialogue has decent fidelity. It’s a good representation of a mid-1980s Dolby Stereo track.
Where extras are concerned, Armed and Dangerous is completely unarmed, without even so much as a trailer. I doubt that the film’s surviving participants were eager to contribute to the Blu-Ray.
Having John Candy and Eugene Levy together, in and of itself, is only funny if what they’re doing is funny, and that’s where Armed and Dangerous misfires. The film’s hackneyed and lazily executed plot, undernourished character development, and feeble direction make things worse. The Blu-Ray’s presentation accurately represents its warts-and-all origins, but it can't hide the film's technical or artistic shortcomings.