|Directed by||Amy Heckerling|
|Produced by||Michael Hertzberg|
|Cinematography||David M. Walsh|
|Edited by||Pembroke J. Herring|
|Music by||John Morris|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$17.1 million|
Johnny Dangerously is a 1984 American crime comedy film, and a parody of 1930s crime/gangster movies. It was directed by Amy Heckerling; its four screenwriters included Bernie Kukoff and Jeff Harris, who co-created the hit comedy series Diff'rent Strokes.
The film stars Michael Keaton as an honest, goodhearted man who turns to a life of crime to finance his mother's skyrocketing medical bills and to put his younger brother through law school. It also features Joe Piscopo, Marilu Henner, Maureen Stapleton, Peter Boyle, Griffin Dunne, Dom DeLuise, Danny DeVito, Dick Butkus and Alan Hale, Jr.
Part of the film's comedic appeal is the clever and frequent use of malapropisms by Johnny and other crime characters, especially in instances where curse words were intended.
The story begins in the year 1935. A pet shop owner catches a young boy shoplifting a puppy. To discourage the kid from a life of crime, the owner tells a story via a flashback.
In 1910 Johnny Kelly is a poor but honest newsboy in New York City. Johnny's mother, Ma Kelly, needs an operation they cannot afford. Since the execution of Johnny's criminal father, Ma has supported Johnny and his younger brother, Tommy, who is fascinated by the law. Johnny gets into a fight with a boy named Danny Vermin, which attracts the notice of local crime boss Jocko Dundee, who offers Johnny a job. Seeing no honest way to earn the money for his mother's operation, Johnny agrees, even though it would break his mother's heart. He helps rob a rival nightclub belonging to Roman Moronie. Moronie, a malapropist of swearwords, claims he never forgets a "fargin'" face. When Jocko asks Johnny his name, he replies Johnny Dangerously.
Years pass. With Ma's continuing medical problems, Johnny goes to work for Dundee full-time. Everyone knows that Kelly is really Johnny Dangerously, except for Ma and Tommy, who think he is a nightclub owner. Similarly, the gang knows nothing of Johnny's mother and brother. Johnny comes to Dundee's headquarters to find he has taken on two new gang members: Danny Vermin and his sidekick Dutch. Danny has lived up to his potential and become a total scumbag, with a taste for using opera audiences as shooting galleries with his .88 Magnum pistol. As the two gangs continue to war, Johnny falls for Lil Sheridan, a young showgirl new to the big city. Eventually, Johnny becomes the boss of the Dundee gang and negotiates a truce with Moronie.
Eventually, Tommy graduates from law school, unknowingly funded by Johnny's illicit earnings. He goes to work for the District Attorney's office, under D.A. Burr, who is on Johnny's payroll. Burr tries to sidetrack Tommy, who has become a major public figure after hearings looking into Moronie's activities. Meanwhile, Burr and Vermin conspire to kill Tommy. Tommy is badly injured but survives. Johnny has Burr killed, but this leaves Tommy as the new D.A. Vermin discovers that Dangerously is the D.A.'s brother, and Tommy overhears Vermin chortling about it. Tommy confronts Johnny, who agrees to turn over the evidence against himself to the Crime Commissioner, whom Vermin killed, framing Johnny.
Johnny is arrested but says the holder of his lucky cigarette case (which Johnny uses for chewing gum) is the guilty party. Johnny is found guilty, sentenced to the electric chair and sent to death row. But when Vermin congratulates Tommy, Tommy notices that he has Johnny's case. Ma Kelly sucker punches Vermin in the crotch, and they realize that Johnny is innocent. Johnny arrives on Death Row, where he receives rock star treatment from the starstruck warden. Johnny hears word that Tommy is in danger, and plots an escape, prevailing on the warden to move up his execution. As he is taken to the chair, Johnny assembles what looks like a tommy gun from parts handed to him by inmates. He escapes in a laundry truck driven by Lil. Johnny, by way of a wild car chase involving several layers of shelf paper, arrives at the movie theatre where Tommy is to be killed. He shoots and wounds Vermin, saving Tommy. The governor pardons Johnny as Vermin is arrested.
The story returns to 1935. The young shoplifter is round eyed. He is given a kitten as Johnny says "Don't forget, crime doesn't pay." The kid goes on his way. Johnny, dressed in a tux, heads off in a limo with Lil, looks at the camera and admits, "Well, it paid a little!"
- Michael Keaton as Johnny Kelly (a.k.a. Johnny Dangerously)
- Byron Thames as young Johnny
- Joe Piscopo as Danny Vermin
- Georg Olden as young Danny
- Marilu Henner as Lil Sheridan
- Maureen Stapleton as Ma Kelly
- Peter Boyle as Jocko Dundee
- Richard Dimitri as Roman Troy Moronie
- Griffin Dunne as Tommy Kelly
- Troy Slaten as young Tommy
- Dom DeLuise as The Pope
- Danny DeVito as Burr
- Dick Butkus as Arthur
- Alan Hale, Jr. as the Desk Sergeant
- Glynnis O'Connor as Sally
- Ron Carey as Pat
- Ray Walston as Vendor
- Neal Israel as Dr. Zilman
- Joe Flaherty (uncredited) as Death Row inmate
The theme song "This Is the Life" was written for the film by "Weird Al" Yankovic, though for legal reasons, the song was not featured on home video releases of the film, until the DVD was released in 2002. The VHS home video version of the film featured a version of the Cole Porter song "Let's Misbehave". The music video for Yankovic's song incorporates scenes from the movie.
The film received mixed reviews and holds a 44% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 16 reviews. According to Mary G. Hurd, the film "is loaded with sight gags, one liners, numerous sexual jokes, and puns". But many critics found it to be a comedy which relies on sophomoric humor. According to Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, the film is both a gangster comedy and an homage to 1930s gangster films, but is perhaps too clever for a mainstream audience. According to Leigh Hallisey, the film is a parody of "old-school" gangster films and reveals Heckerling's awareness of their conventions and stereotypes. Foster finds the comedies of Amy Heckerling to rely on "fast-paced, witty repartee and droll humor", and draws comparisons to those of Frank Tashlin and Jerry Lewis.
Martin F. Norden considers the film to be part of a trend in 1980s comedies, linking disability to humor. He notes that the film contains numerous gags of this nature. He spotlights a running gag, concerning a blind newspaper vendor played by Ray Walston. He starts out blind but a bundle of newspapers hits him on the head, causing him to regain his sight. A repetition of the accident then leaves him deaf. Another repetition restores his sight and hearing but causes him to suffer amnesia.
- "JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY (15)". British Board of Film Classification. November 16, 1984. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
- Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p260
- Johnny Dangerously (1984)—Alternate versions, IMDb.com. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- Hurd (2007), p. 24
- Foster (1995), p. 175
- Hallisey (2002), p. 232
- Norden (1994), p. 290
- Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey (1995), "Heckerling, Amy", Women Film Directors: An International Bio-critical Dictionary, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0313289729
- Hallisey, Leigh (2002), "Amy Heckerling", Contemporary North American Film Directors: A Wallflower Critical Guide, Wallflower Press, ISBN 978-1903364529
- Hurd, Mary G. (2007), "Amy Heckerling", Women Directors and Their Films, Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0275985783
- Norden, Martin F. (1994), "High-Tech Heroics and Other Concerns", The Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies, Rutgers University Press, ISBN 978-0813521046
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