Who's Harry Crumb (1989) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Who indeed? Harry is the world's worst private detective, although his father and grandfather were sleuths on a level with Holmes himself. With the elder Crumbs having passed on, the giant Crumb Detective Agency is being run by professionals, and poor old Harry has been exiled to the Tulsa office, obviously guaranteed a position in the company by his family inheritance, but assigned where he can do the least harm. His only unique gift as a human being is the complete inability to solve any crime of any type. Amazingly, the home office suddenly requires just such a talent. You see, the president of the detective agency has committed a kidnapping, and a wealthy client has hired the Crumb agency to handle the matter. It is therefore imperative as a matter of survival for the kidnapper/president to assign the case to a detective who will have absolutely no chance of figuring out what is going on. Enter Harry Crumb.

Harry is constantly posturing about how much he knows, even though the only things he gets right are meaningless bits of trivia. He is a limitless reservoir of accurate but useless information about obscure matters like vintage automobiles and fishing lures, but he is completely clueless when it comes to piecing together a criminal investigation. That doesn't stop him from declaring his genius with his words while his simultaneous actions betray his cluelessness. In other words, he's basically a fat, Canadian version of Inspector Clouseau. As per the requirements of a Pink Panther film, Crumb takes a know-it-all attitude, dresses up in ridiculous disguises, makes all the wrong assumptions,   gets everyone to assume he's an idiot, then somehow bungles his way to the correct solution.

Who's Harry Crumb isn't really such a good comedy. It's mostly slapstick, and the essence of its approach to humor is to exaggerate John Candy's ridiculous physical appearance. The big fella must have been at his peak weight at this time, and he was placed in the most embarrassing situations conceivable, whereupon the costumers were encouraged to dress him up in the most outrageous outfits they could conceive, so that the slapstick situations would look even sillier. He's flamboyant. He's a jockey. He's a woman. You get the idea. Of course, there was some juvenile humor to be milked out of that strategy, and I caught myself chuckling a bit, but it was also a waste of the kind of prodigious talent Candy had for creating a lovable wastrel character, as he did in Splash and Uncle Buck, and with his SCTV impersonations. Furthermore, Candy was basically asked to carry the entire movie with what is basically a colorful secondary character, and ... well ... we all know that a little bit of candy is a sweet treat, but we can get sick of it if we get too much.

The failings of this film notwithstanding, I really miss John Candy. Has he really been dead a dozen years? I can't think of anyone else who has come along to replace him. He was cast as a slacker, an incompetent, a pervert, a shifty drunk, a coward, a clueless dolt, a pompous ass ... and in every single case, the audience adored him. He was the ultimate lovable goof-off on screen, and his SCTV colleagues verify that John was simply playing John. When the members of the SCTV team sequestered themselves in remote hotels to concentrate on writing several episodes of SCTV for those early seasons, the others could never count on John to come back with the skits he said he would work on, but they could count on three things: (1) John would be in the hotel bar making a friend of every single human in sight; (2) John would have some funny ideas which could be developed by the cast members with better work ethics; (3) when the time came for filming, John would bring the same irresistible charm to his roles in the skits that he brought to the hotel bar.

And some of that charm can be seen here as well. The film needed more verbal humor and fewer pratfalls, but it does have John, and some other minor charms. Annie Potts is fun as a dotty nympho, and Shawnee Smith is adorable as the young girl who becomes Candy's ad-hoc partner. Above all Candy is Candy, so it can't be totally awful, can it?



  • No significant features
  • The widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 screens


None, but ...

  • Annie Potts does a bra-clad sex scene with Principal Rooney, and it is possible to see her areolae through her bra.

  • There is a scene in which a disguised Candy loses his chest hair on a naked but mud-covered woman. It makes it look like she has an enormous thatch of pubes.

The Critics Vote ...


The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It grossed about $11 million in a maximum of about 1200 theaters.  It was not among the top fifty films of 1989.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C-, tolerable lowbrow fun for Candy fans.

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