Even before we see the blatant footage from Strangers on a Train, this movie felt an awful like a way-too-obvious comedic remake of that Hitchcock classic.
Bill Crystal is our straight man, a writer afflicted with writer's block who makes ends meet. Why the writer's block? Well, his ex-wife has just reached enormous success from publishing a book titled "Hot Fire", which he believes was more or less stolen from him. She appears on talk shows and more or less skewers her ex-husband. I am reminded of Nora Ephron here, who published a book "Heart Burn" - which features a heart on the cover just like "Hot Fire" - about her failed marriage with Carl Bernstein.
Danny DeVito is the deranged man in Crystal's class who is similarly unhappy with his freakish, domineering mother. His stories he writes for class are murder mysteries whose main flaw is a lack of actual mystery. Crystal's attempts to explain motivation and alibi leads to mentioning the Hitchcock film, which gives him the idea Crystal wants to "swap murders" - they kill each other's problem people, while they establish proper alibis, being the obvious respective suspects. Crystal, of course, had no such idea.
The movie is filled with typical low-brow gags, but it works better than so many other cheap comedies because we can really believe the characters and their motivations. There's nothing lofty about the film, and nobody in their right mind is expecting great things here, but hey, it's a fun little, well-put-together, romp.
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