Life Stinks

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Life Stinks
Theatrical poster
Directed byMel Brooks
Produced byMel Brooks
Written byMel Brooks
Ron Clark
Rudy De Luca
Steve Haberman
Music byJohn Morris
CinematographySteven Poster
Edited byMichael Mulconery
David Rawlins
Anthony Redman
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • July 26, 1991 (1991-07-26)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$13 million
Box office$4.1 million

Life Stinks is a 1991 American comedy film co-written, produced, directed by and starring Mel Brooks. It is one of the few Mel Brooks comedies that is not a parody, nor at any time does the film break the fourth wall. It co-stars Lesley Ann Warren, Howard Morris and Jeffrey Tambor. The original music score was composed by John Morris. The film was both a critical and a box-office flop.


Goddard Bolt (Mel Brooks) is the callous CEO of Bolt Enterprises. Bolt shows little regard for other people's needs, or for the environment. He has his eye on the slum of Los Angeles, with the intent of tearing it down. Bolt makes a bet with his biggest rival, Vance Crasswell (Jeffrey Tambor), who also has an interest in the property. Crasswell challenges Bolt to survive on the streets as if he were homeless for 30 days. Should Bolt lose, Crasswell owns the property, but should Bolt win, Crasswell will sell it for practically nothing.

There are three conditions: (i) Bolt will be completely penniless; (ii) He must wear an electronic anklet that will activate if he leaves the boundaries, forfeiting the bet if he exceeds 30 seconds out of bounds; (iii) At no time can he reveal to any of the slum area residents that he is Goddard Bolt. To add to the look, Bolt has his mustache shaved off, then Crasswell confiscates his toupee and rips his jacket chest pocket. Bolt is taken to the slums, thrown out of the limo and begins the bet. Unbeknown to Bolt, Crasswell schemes to make Goddard's stay on the streets as bad as possible. Bolt, homeless, hungry and filthy, is befriended by skid-row inhabitants like Sailor (Howard Morris) and Fumes (Theodore Wilson) and given the nickname "Pepto" after falling asleep in a crate with a Pepto-Bismol logo on its side, having used the crate to urinate on mere moments before Sailor arrives.

During the bet, he meets and eventually becomes attracted to Molly (Lesley Ann Warren), a homeless woman who used to be a dancer on Broadway. During a scuffle with two muggers (including a chase through a Chinese kitchen/restaurant), Bolt is pushed out of bounds, which activates his anklet. To prevent the "30-second forfeiture", Bolt rushes back in, which impresses Molly with his supposed bravery, as it looks like he is tackling the muggers. The muggers are eventually defeated via a pot of boiling stock being poured over them from a height, forcing them to retreat their assault on Bolt. Bolt learns a series of important life lessons during his "adventure", namely that life is not about accomplishments or material success but rather the integrity of the human spirit. However, Bolt is unaware that the unscrupulous Crasswell has no intention of honoring their bet. When Crasswell realizes that Bolt is honoring the bet fair and square, Crasswell bribes Bolt's lawyers into fabricating the story that Bolt had lost his mind and has his property seized (Bolt finds this out first hand as he forces his way into a party and his lawyers pretend that they don't know what's going on).

Forced to live on the streets for good and remanded to a free clinic by mistake, a drugged Bolt murmurs that "life stinks". Molly implores him to remember small things such as the two of them waltzing that make life livable. Crasswell, meanwhile, has his own plans for the slum area, planning to tear it down as well. Bolt incites Fumes and the other slum residents to stage a mock battle during the televised ceremony. Crasswell attempts to stop Bolt with a hydraulic excavator. When Bolt's grapple has plucked Crasswell and has him hanging by his jacket, the scene is freeze-framed into a news report saying that Crasswell, in a court case, was forced to admit he made a bet with Bolt, then reneged on the terms.

Bolt, now in control of the area, has plans to renovate it into the "Bolt Center", which will give the slum residents employment, renovate the tenements into livable homes, and give the children a private school financed entirely out of pocket by Goddard Bolt. The news report ends by saying that Bolt has married Molly, and the press are expecting an extravagant CEO-type event, only to then be shown Goddard and Molly taking their wedding vows in a simple chapel in the slum area, then driving off in a limousine with a vanity plate "PEPTO".



Whoopi Goldberg was initially considered for Lesley Ann Warren's role; however, Brooks was uncertain whether he could convincingly play her love interest.[1]


The film was screened out of competition at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

In a rare turn of events for a Mel Brooks film, it was both a critical and commercial failure. Rotten Tomatoes reports an 18% approval rating, based on 17 reviews with an average rating of 3.9/10. Praise did come from the fact that Brooks attempted a different type of satire rather than rehashing spoofs.[3] The film underperformed at the box office grossing $4,102,526 domestically, under its $13 million budget.[4] It has since gained a cult following for being an experimental film by Brooks, as opposed to his usual parodies.[5] In addition, it received three stars from Roger Ebert.[6]


  1. ^ IANS (November 24, 2007). "Mel Brooks didn't want to kiss Whoopi Goldberg". Daily News & Analysis. Diligent Media Corporation. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  2. ^ "Life Stinks". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved August 12, 2009.
  3. ^ "Life Stinks (1991)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  4. ^ "Life Stinks". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved December 5, 2008.
  5. ^ Anderson, Ryan (June 14, 2015). "Filmmaker Retrospective: The Parody Cinema of Mel Brooks". Taste of Cinema. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 26, 1991). "Life Stinks". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved July 20, 2018.

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