Car 54, Where Are You? (1994) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Car 54, Where Are You? (1994)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site

Enjoy the piece? Please share this article on your platform of choice using the buttons above, or join the Twitch stream here!

Danny DISLIKEThe comedy devoid of laughs is one of the grimmest human experiences imaginable. They're like waiting in a line when you're not sure you're actually in the right line; you're uneasy, impatient, and constantly questioning all the boneheaded moves in your life that have led you to this point.

Car 54, Where Are You? is just such an experience. In fact, using the term 'experience' is a gentle understatement as it lacks a necessary connotation; "slog" sounds much more appropriate in retrospect.

But I'm desperately, desperately trying to avoid writing about a desperate, desperate movie. Car 54 is based on the similarly named 60's sitcom about two bumbling police officers. One is a loudmouthed family man and the other a quiet sincere mama's boy; together, they fight crime.

The family man here is played by a gravely voiced David Johansen. He's partly famous for being the lead singer of the New York Dolls, partly famous for his cover of "Hot Hot Hot". If you weren't sure he was a musician from these credentials, the movie has some characters pull him on stage for a few numbers mambo inspired numbers that will inspire you to see how much more of the film is left.

Johansen does an excellent job of playing repulsive, which is a shame since I don't think that's what we're supposed to take away from the character. He's Officer Toody, a slacker working his way towards retirement. He's married to Rosie O'Donnell, playing full fledged shrew mode until Toody says something halfway romantic and then there's the sex scene and my brain is forcing me to abandon this avenue of discussion before it's too late.

He's partnered with the straight laced, nerdy Officer Muldoon. Muldoon is played by John C. McGinley as a painfully bland dim bulb. He arrests a woman for spitting, upgrades everything at the station house with those fancy pants 'computers', and in general behaves like someone who has been trapped in a tiny box for all of his life. He's socially inept to the point that passes caricature and reaches into the realm of surrealism.

I have to be honest for one second here: John C. McGinley is a fucking terrible comic actor. He's a chronic mugger; he exaggerates every reaction that he's handed to a degree where he's gone beyond portraying a character in a movie to become an ACTOR portraying a FUNNY WACKY GUY in A MOVIE. I'd hesitate to put him in a clown act let alone a major motion picture that required the audience to sympathize with the character.

So we have two extremely unlikeable characters. What is the innovative plot that these two must bumble their way through? Why, hey, it's Jeremy Piven, and needs to be guarded from mafia hitmen. Piven just smiles blankly through most of his scenes in what I imagine is the hope that he'll melt into the background.

There's actually a ton of cameos in this film. The Ramones, of all the damned groups, actually appear in the background of one scene. Penn and Teller are doing their schtick, Fran Drescher plays a sex bomb obsessed with police officers, a heavily made-up Daniel Baldwin as the mafioso, Tone Loc is seriously in this, and Al Lewis is here, reprising his role from the original show.

If you don't remember immediately who Al Lewis is, we get a scene of him watching himself as Grandpa in "The Munsters." This is during the scene where Toody accidentally pulls out Lewis's catheter, which, like all of the jokes in the movie, lacks a punchline or even an attempted transition to the next bit.

The movie limps it's whole running time, but it doesn't contain a single laugh. The music (besides Toody's painful opening and consequent mambo number) is all early-90's Vanilla Ice-esque rap music, with lyrics like (and this is an actual full verse):

Brooklyn-- bustin out on a hot tip.
Two of Brooklyn's finest-- you can't diss!
Busted! That's what you are when you break the law
You want some more? Get 'em Car 54!
This ain't no Batman, this ain't no Dick Tracy.
I don't play that. Don't even give me that, man.
Mutant Ninja Turtles? Please.
Busted sucker, you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

Once in my life I'd like to get a crack at a swordfish!

No. No clue about the swordfish thing. Not a damned one.

This movie sat in limbo from when it was filmed in 1990 until 1994 when the bankruptcy proceedings from Orion Pictures was finally sorted out. I have to imagine the only reason that this movie was released was because they calculated they would make more money from exhibiting the film than from an 'accidental' fire destroying the print. If I had been in their same position back then, well, burn, baby, burn.

If you enjoy my writing or podcast work, please consider becoming a monthly Patron or sending a one-time contribution! Every bit helps keep Can't Stop the Movies running and moving toward making it my day job.

Car 54, Where Are You? (1994)

Trailer | IMDB
Directed by Bill Fishman
Written by Erik Tarlof & Ebbe Roe Smith
Starring David Johansen John C. McGinley, and Rosie O'Donnel

Posted by Danny

Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.

Leave Your Thoughts!

No trackbacks yet.