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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12%
Worth A Look: 4%
Pretty Bad: 4%
Total Crap: 36%

2 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Best Defense
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by Jack Sommersby

"Moore/Murphy = Hit/Miss"
3 stars

It came out the same year both stars came out with far better pictures -- Dudley Moore with "Micki and Maude," Eddie Murphy with "Beverly Hills Cop." Still, it's a nice diversion and not nearly as bad as you've heard.

With a truly haphazard screenplay and a load of nonsensicalness, Best Defense really shouldn't work and its jingoism and sexism can't be ignored, either. On the other hand, it's rambunctiously amusing in a weird kind of way, thrusting so many visual and aural gags at the viewer that you're eventually worn down to the point where the gags that do work manage to make you halfway glad for sticking with it. A black comedy about military-defense contractors, it's considerably better than Richard Brooks's dreadful Wrong is Right and William Friedkin's deadly Deal of the Century, with a couple of excellent comedic performances that really put the whole thing over. Though his role is far from a plum, Dudley Moore puts some real spunk into the lead character of Wylie Cooper, a second-rate engineer who's had twelve jobs in the last ten years, the latest one with a troubled aerospace company in Seal Beach, California that's on the brink of bankruptcy. In fact, as Wylie arrives at work one morning, some of the equipment and even the coffee-vending machine are getting repossessed; everything is riding on the successful test of a gadget that Wylie's in charge of called a "dip gyro," a crucial component for a prototype super tank's ground-to-air-missile system. With senators and military brass present, the test goes considerably awry -- the gyro overheats and nearly destroys the lab. Nursing his woes at a bar later that night, Wylie is talked up by a nervous man claiming to be an engineer: he says he's there to sell his design of something to an undercover KBG operative but is having second thoughts; when the agent arrives, when Wylie is paying the check, the man puts something in Wylie's briefcase; and right when he tries to make a break for it in the parking lot, he's abducted and thrown into a car that speeds away. The next day, ready for the boom to be lowered on him, Wylie is surprised to find a computer disc in that briefcase; he's even more surprised that it's a design for a workable gyro. Wylie takes credit for it, the initial tests are successful enough for a signed military contract, Wylie's showered with gifts, praise and a raise from his boss. Everything seems to be going terrific, only Wylie's penchant for bad luck doesn't desert him: the man from the bar turns up as a supposed suicide from carbon-monoxide poisoning in his garage; Wylie's now the target of the really kooky KGB guy calling himself Jeff, and is then an unwilling patsy for the FBI looking to take Jeff down.

These goings-on actually take place in the past, in 1982, while the present sections take place in Kuwait, in 1984, with (as he's billed in the credits) "Strategic Guest Star" Eddie Murphy as Lieutenant Landry, an army officer assigned to test the super-tank in front of a group of Kuwaiti officials who wish to purchase it. Suffice to say, the tank isn't any better-designed than Wylie's designed gyro -- it careens so far off course it runs over a couple of Mercedes limos before uncontrollably continuing forth into another region that's eventually under fire when Iraq decides to invade. Landry, with two dim-witted Kuwaiti soldiers inside the tank with him, spends the duration of the movie in ultra-exasperation mode, shouting and shouting and shouting; and Murphy, though talented enough not to let the lackluster material get the better of him, is wasted -- and worse, despite what the audience is led to expect, he never shares a single scene with Moore. Thanks for this disservice can be heaped upon the screenwriting team of Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz (with him directing and her producing), who actually wrote the phenomenal Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Rather than deft, the story structure is merely gimmicky, and not enough laughs are derived from the Landry episodes, which are basically just lame-duck action sequences smothered with wisecracks. Surprisingly, though, after some initial irritating uncouthness in the scenes involving Wylie (the verbal sexual puns are embarrassingly facile), the writing in them improves. Moore is a master at physical comedy and with the throwaway line, and he puts so much undiluted energy into his befuddled-horny-rascal interpretation that we can't help but root for him. And the superb David Rasche, who plays Jeff, gives his two big scenes plenty of goofy aplomb -- with a combination of imagination and technique, he makes such a dynamite impression that we're deflated when the character is finished off. Best Defense moves well enough, and despite the crass female caricatures (Wylie's always-complaining wife, shrill; his superior at work, ditsy) the movie has a disarming tone and so much "busyness" that there's always something to sustain our attention. There's nothing sophisticated about it, to be sure, but there are patches that really come alive, and some of the timing is better than the writing deserves (including an ever-collapsing house front door that's forever getting the best of Wylie). It's fun, and the very definition of a "guilty pleasure."

No special features on the DVD, and while the video quality is no great shakes, the audio has some surprisingly good channel separations.

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originally posted: 05/27/12 09:06:47
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell cant remember much about this one LOL 3 stars
10/07/10 Homer J. Fong Anyone who likes this film is a God-damn MORON! PERIOD!!! 1 stars
9/16/09 art NOT FUNNY!,IT IS FRIGHTENING! 3 stars
1/21/08 art the concept of this film is a blank slate for comedy 3 stars
12/01/05 hibbyX FROM THE DIRECTOR OF "HOWARD THE DUCK" and the star of "PLUTO NASH"...'nuff said. 1 stars
11/10/05 Bill Markson Lame sure... but FUNNY!!! try it... 5 stars
12/14/04 Joe Norbert Some funny scenes, but disjointed 3 stars
12/03/04 Mark Review too harsh - Lame ending, but not a bad film 4 stars
12/02/04 Jennifer Hey... SLEDGE HAMMER is in this! ALRIGHT! 5 stars
12/01/04 Frank Movie not so good, but David Rasche ROCKS 5 stars
3/09/03 Jack Sommersby A guilty pleasure. Atrocious on most counts, yet so silly it's appealing. 3 stars
8/07/01 Joe Zappa Wild bores aren't nearly as boring as Dudley Moore's scenes in this movie.Eddie is mediocre 2 stars
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  02-Nov-1984 (R)
  DVD: 27-Jan-2004



Directed by
  Willard Huyck

Written by
  Willard Huyck
  Gloria Katz

  Dudley Moore
  Kate Capshaw
  Eddie Murphy
  George Dzundza
  Helen Shaver
  Tom Noonan

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