Tom Hanks is about the closest thing we have to Hollywood royalty these days. Once he was that guy in a dress on the show “Bosom Buddies,” and now he’s the elder statesman of the entertainment community. So, could any of his films really fit into that category of “forgotten films?” Well, today’s film is probably not forgotten by those who saw it run endlessly on cable TV during the 80’s. But I would guess many of today’s film viewers have never seen this strange remake of a French film that was one of Hanks’ first roles after hitting it big with “Splash.” It’s 1985’s “The Man with One Red Shoe.”
The story is set in motion by a deputy director of the CIA named Cooper (Dabney Coleman). He’s itching to get rid of the current director, Ross (Charles Durning), and take over the job himself. To do this he plans to smear Ross by linking him to a botched drug deal in Morocco. But Ross has his own plans to turn the tide. In his home, which he knows Cooper has bugged, he meets with his assistant, Brown (Edward Herrmann). They discuss meeting a man at the airport who will have what they need to nail Cooper. There really is no man, but Ross knows Cooper will follow whatever lead they give him. Brown simply has to go to the airport and interact with any random person…leading Cooper’s men on a wild goose chase as they waste time following someone who has nothing to do with the CIA. Brown ends up picking a man named Richard Drew (Hanks), who catches his eye because he is wearing one red shoe.
When Brown briefly shakes hands with the confused Richard, that’s all it takes to get the ball rolling. A beautiful young agent named Madde (Lori Singer) quickly bumps into Richard, grabbing his wallet in the process so she can identify him. Soon, Cooper has a whole crew of agents, including David L Lander (Squiggy!!), checking every aspect of Richard’s life. When he heads out for an appointment with his dentist, Maddy and the others sneak into his apartment and start tearing the place apart. They chop up his furniture, then haphazardly put it back together. They check through the pipes in his bathroom and then reconnect everything wrong (so now the sink runs when you flush the toilet). Then, strangest of all, they empty his tube of toothpaste and for some reason refill it with shampoo. This all seems to be for the purpose of setting up slapstick situations for later in the film, since from an espionage standpoint they make no sense at all.
There’s a bit of a side story involving Richard’s best friend Morris (Jim Belushi) and Morris’ wife Paula (Carrie Fisher). Apparently, Paula got Richard drunk during a recent concert tour and had a one night stand with him. Now she’s obsessed with performing a sort of bedroom style Tarzan and Jane roll-playing exercise with the guy. But Richard isn’t having any of that as he becomes more and more obsessed with the mysterious woman (Maddy) he keeps encountering.
Cooper is convinced that Richard must be passing messages through the music he plays at his concerts. But Maddy begins to have her doubts as she realizes Richard is a bit of a schlub…plus she finds herself falling in love with him.
This is one of the movies that we watched over and over again as teenagers in the 80’s. Not really by choice, but because it played all the time on HBO. It seemed funnier when I was younger, but the film really goes out of it’s way to create it’s comedic situations. It just doesn’t flow well. I mean, what on Earth do Cooper’s agents expect to find by sawing the legs off a chair and then crudely putting it back together? Probably nothing, but it gives Jim Belushi as chance to fall on his rear 20 minutes later.
Though the humor is weak, the cast is certainly likeable. Come on folks, it’s Tom Hanks! Has he ever not been likeable? I also gotta give some props to Jim Belushi. He was still struggling to get out of the shadow of his big brother at this point…but some of this film’s funnier moments belong to him. Carrie Fisher isn’t given a whole lot of screen time, but I guess fans of her time in a slave outfit in “Return of the Jedi” will appreciate that she spends her biggest scene wearing leopard print underwear. Durning, Coleman, and Herrmann also bring their usual dependability to their roles…the material just isn’t quite in line with the comedic pedigree of the cast.
Considering all that Tom Hanks has gone on to do, “The Man with One Red Shoe” is an interesting curiosity. There are elements to enjoy, just don’t expect greatness. Remember, even Hollywood royalty has to start somewhere..