Multi-millionaire Joe McTeague (Kirk Douglas) is a Grumpy Old Man
bound to a wheelchair, who is going to give all of his fortunes to a member of his family. Joe's relatives bicker amongst each other as they try to win Joe over into giving one of them his fortunes, but it doesn't work, so they hire a detective to track down Joe's estranged cousin Daniel, but Daniel and Joe don't see eye-to-eye, so then there's Daniel's son Danny (Michael J. Fox
), the favorite of Joe and a professional bowler with arthritis in one of his hands. When the other relatives tell Danny about Joe and his personal nurse (Olivia d'Abo), Danny agrees to help them try to talk him out of leaving his fortune to her.
This movie provides examples of:
- Calling the Old Man Out: Danny has a loud argument with his father on the subject of greed and materialism, in which Danny chooses Joe over his father. Danny later reveals to his girlfriend that his "father" was an actor hired to create the scene for Joe's benefit, leading to a What the Hell, Hero? moment.
- Gold Digger: Joe's "nurse", Molly, is accused of being this though the film makes clear that they haven't slept together. After she was ready to sleep with him to secure his loyalty, she ends up leaving due to the realization of how low she had sunk. Her appearance after The Reveal suggests that she may have been faking that persona for the benefit of Uncle Joe's grand scheme.
- Foreshadowing: A number of events imply that something is a bit off with Uncle Joe, such as his attempt to contact an old business that has been gone for twenty-five years, despite Joe being sure that he'd spoken recently. This also applies to Joe being easily fooled by a paid actor posing as Daniel. This seems to be a setup for The Reveal that Joe is senile and broke. It is actually setting up Joe's reveal that he was testing his family all along by faking senility.
- May-December Romance: Heavily implied between Joe and his nurse.
- Mood Whiplash: After the nurse quits her job, Danny's girlfriend Robin, who accuses him of being as greedy as his relatives, dumps him on the spot. It turns out that in the next scene, she was right.
- Obfuscating Disability: Subverted: After the family is informed that Uncle Joe is suffering from dementia and that he is actually broke, one of the relatives accuses him of this. He is then informed that the condition is quite real, as are Uncle Joe's debts. Only it's a double-subversion: When Danny decides to take care of his uncle despite there being no profit in it, Joe reveals that he actually was faking it all along (even pretending to be fooled by an actor that Danny had hired) and that he isn't really broke. Then he gets out of his wheelchair.
- Secret Test
- Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Happens to Danny with greed. He first seems motivated by trying to at least keep Uncle Joe safe from the other relatives (who are quite happy to have the man declared incompetent and put into a home), only for him to eventually become as manipulative and as greedy as everyone else, culminating in him hiring an actor to portray his estranged father just so that he could side with Joe in a scripted argument. When confronted with his real father, he finally realizes what he has done and he more or less describes the trope: one thing didn't seem wrong, then another thing didn't seem wrong, until finally nothing seemed wrong.
- The Reveal: Joe is suffering from dementia and is actually broke. Then, later, Joe was faking senility and he isn't broke.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Danny's girlfriend gives one of these when she learns just how underhanded Danny has become in trying to win his uncle's favor.