A Fine Mess
is a 1986 comedy film directed by Blake Edwards and starring Ted Danson, Howie Mandel, Maria Conchita Alonso
and Paul Sorvino and released by Columbia Pictures
. The plot centers around struggling actor Spence Holden (Danson) and frustrated waiter Dennis Powell (Mandel) who stumble upon a horse doping plot and the gangsters involved, turning the movie into an extended chase, leading to them accidentally buying a piano at an auction. Claudia Pazzo (Alonso) offers them $8,000 for it (though they paid $10,000), since she claimed that she had wanted to buy it herself but "this crazy racehorse" caused her to get "held up in traffic." Later that night, Spence calls her up and asks if it would be possible to deliver the piano to her house tomorrow, and that he'd really like to see her again. She says she'll be over in 20 minutes. (See below under Naked in Mink
.) Unfortunately, she's married to Tony Pazzo (Sorvino), the local mob boss whose idiot flunkies, Maurice 'Binky' Drundza (Stuart Margolin) and Wayne 'Turnip' Parragella (Richard Mulligan), are the ones responsible for doping the horses in the first place. Dennis hates his job as a rollerskating waiter and his boss and wants to open an Indian food restaurant called Gandhi's, which would specialize in curry, although he's never actually tried
it before. He also strikes up a relationship with the lady from the auction, Ellen Frankenthaler (Jennifer Edwards.)
The film's poor box office showing was reinforced when Sorvino and Alonso both appeared on the May 18, 1998 episode of Vibe
to promote separate projects. When Alonso came out for her interview, she rushed over to Sorvino, saying, "My husband, my husband," and then had to explain why she was saying that
As usual, you can find the basics at IMDB
A Fine Mess of Tropes:
- The Alleged Car: It's a stolen Cadillac without doors.
- Auction and Accidental Bid: Despite Spence's explanation that Dennis was only "smelling his armpit."
- Bikini Bar: There is a scene in a strip club where Binky and Turnip are talking about what happened with Claudia at Spence's apartment and trying to figure out what they should do. The girls are ignored, almost as if the scene could have taken place anywhere.
- The Casanova: Spence, leading to the Running Gag below.
- Chase Scene: Quite a lot of the movie..
- Contrived Coincidence: What fuels the movie
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Spence Holden is not too far removed from Sam Malone, who Danson was playing at the same time on Cheers.
- Drugs Are Bad: The doped racehorse, Sweet Sue, dies from the drugs.
- Embarrassing Nickname: "Binky" and "Turnip"
- Fake Nationality: A Cuban playing an Italian.
- Fake Rabies: Dennis pulls this at the horse track.
- Fin Gore: No blood, but Binky does get his fingers caught in the door of the car when he and Turnip arrive at Spence's apartment building.
- Fire Breathing Diner: Dennis's first experience eating curry at a restaurant with Ellen has him downing drinks, eating leaves out of the flowers on the table, running to other customers' tables to drink whatever they have until he finally just starts SCREAMING!
- Horse Racing
- In Love with the Gangster's Girl
- Landlord: Spence promises he'll get the rent check
- Los Angeles. It's announced that the doped horse, Sweet Sue, won the third race at Hollywood Park and the fourth race at Santa Anita. Hollywood Park is in Inglewood and Santa Anita is in Arcadia. Depending on which route you take, this is a 32-34 mile trip that would take 46 minutes. Meaning, the drugs given the horse were so powerful that it was able to win two races in the same day on two different tracks that were 30+ miles apart. Adding to the Artistic License, it's noted that Sweet Sue "ran the last furlong backward, but still won by a tail."
- The Mafia
- Meganekko: Ellen
- Ms. Fanservice: Claudia Pazzo. The only times we see her properly dressed are her first appearance at the apartment when she offers to buy the piano, and at the end when she and Spence are filming a movie.
- Diamonds in the Buff: Claudia is seen wearing earrings while taking a bubble bath and talking with Spence on the phone, and arrives at Spence's apartment wearing earrings, a necklace and even rings on her fingers. The earrings and necklace are visible when she is on top of him in bed.
- Naked in Mink: Claudia arrives at Spence's apartment wearing a white fur coat. Spence asks, "May I take your coat?" and Claudia answers, "Sure," shedding the coat and walking into Spence's bedroom wearing only panties.
- Nipple and Dimed/Sideboob: We see the top of Claudia's breasts and the side of her right breast on top of Spence but nothing more.
- Caught with Your Pants Down & Modesty Bedsheet: After Binky and Turnip have shown up at his apartment (since their car crashed into Spence's brother-in-law and his sister who were driving The Alleged Car above and he gave them Spence's address) and burst in on Claudia (wearing a towel on her way out of the bathroom, who then chased them screaming out the door), Spence wrapped the sheets around himself and tried to catch up with her, and called out her name, leading to an example of the Running Gag below.
- Panty Shot. Along with the Naked in Mink scene above, when Spence and Dennis deliver the piano, Spence sneaks up to Claudia's bedroom to surprise her in bed, and holds up her panties, saying, "In your rush, you forgot these."
- Closet Shuffle: Claudia tries to hide Spence and Dennis under her bed and in the sauna
- Distracted by the Sexy: Tony, when Claudia takes off her nightgown in the sauna, where she is hiding Spence and Dennis, and walks out naked. However,
- Scenery Censor: The back wall of the sauna is the exact height needed to cover Claudia's butt when she drops her nightgown and even after she walks forward out of the sauna to distract Tony.
- Nepotism: Ellen is played by director Blake Edwards' daughter
- No Escape But Down: Spence jumps out of a second floor window in the Pazzos' home to land on the truck.
- Oh Crap: Dennis figuring out who Tony Pazzo really is.
- Pursued Protagonist: Spence and Dennis
- Running Gag: Spence getting slapped in the face when he can't remember women's names.
- Sesquipedalian Smith: Inverted with Ellen Frankenthaler.
- Shout Out: The title is taken from Laurel and Hardy's catchphrase, "That's another fine mess you've gotten us into," and the piano delivery is a direct reference to The Music Box.
- Dennis tells Ellen that his dream is to open an Indian food restaurant called Gandhi's.
- As Tony is limping around his house looking for Claudia, who is hiding in the sauna with Spence and Dennis, he says, "Someday they're going to do my life story, The Singing Godfather."
- Start My Own: We see that Dennis got his happy ending and he and Ellen have opened an Indian food restaurant called Gandhi's.
- Title Drop: The closing narration thanks all the characters who "made such a fine mess."
- Unfortunate Name: Dennis' boss is named Mr. Wardell Flecken, a shortened version of Fleckenshicker. Dennis asks, "Is that like Shickenflucker?"
- Your Cheating Heart: It's not until after Spence and Claudia have had sex and he and Dennis have arrived to deliver the piano to Claudia that we learn that (A) she is married and (B) it's to the mob boss whose responsible for the horse doping that launched everything in the story into motion in the first place.