A 1994 retro-screwball comedy directed by The Coen Brothers, from a story devised by them and Sam Raimi. A box office and critical flop when it was released, but has been somewhat Vindicated by History.Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins), a recently graduated business major, makes his way from his hometown of Muncie, Indiana, to New York City to "make it big." He winds up working in the mailroom of the monolithic Hudsucker Industries, whose CEO, Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning), has recently committed suicide. On the day he is hired, Norville is given the task of delivering an important letter from Hudsucker to Sidney Mussburger (Paul Newman), the second-in-command at Hudsucker Industries.Meanwhile, Mussburger is upstairs trying to calm the board of directors. Apparently, Hudsucker had no will, which means according to company policy his majority stock share in the company must be put up for sale on the open market within six month's time. This means the company would be open to hostile takeover by whomever can buy the expensive shares. Mussburger hits upon the idea of appointing an idiot as a secret "proxy," someone who can be easily controlled and cause the company's profitability to tank without doing any lasting damage. This way, with stock prices depressed because of poor profitability, Mussburger and the other members of the board can buy up the shares on the cheap quickly when they go up for sale, and maintain control.Soon enough, Norville appears at Mussburger's door, with the letter, but Barnes is so eager to mention his ideas for the company that he never does deliver the letter, and ends up nearly killing Mussburger during their first meeting. Mussburger comes away convinced he's an idiot...but just the right kind of idiot for his needs, and so Barnes is quickly made the new CEO of Hudsucker Industries, with Mussburger's secret plan in action, and Barnes has an idea for a new toy - you know, for kids.
This film contains examples of:
Accidental Pun: "I wasn't expecting all this hoopla." Norville is so pleased with himself for stumbling on this that he milks it for all it's worth, later leading to a Lame Pun Reaction when he uses it.
Almighty Janitor: Moses, keeper of the clock tower, is a good example; the nameless repairman is an evil example. Both seem to have humble jobs in the Hudsucker Industries hierarchy, yet both are capable of freezing time for the rest of the universe, and get into a fight over this ability at the film's climax.
Anachronism Stew: The film is supposed to be set in 1958, but except for the beatnik and the hula hoop, everything seems more 1930s-ish.
Angst? What Angst?: The reaction to Hudsucker's death, for most of the board. Mussburger (his Vice-President) even takes the cigar he had left behind and starts to smoking it, proclaiming it would be a shame to "waste a Montecristo". There's only one guy who seems genuinely upset, and he's told to "quit showboating, Addison, the man's gone."
Norville's "You know, for kids!", said when describing one of his new toys.
Sidney's "Sure, sure."
"They'll dock ya!"
Central Theme: The film centers on a circle theme, referencing the cycle of life:
The clock itself. One may notice that the film goes from morning to night over the course of the story - despite the story taking place over the course of a few months.
The coffee stain leaves a circle over a potential job for Norville.
The hula hoop, the bendy straw and the frisbee are all represented as circles.
Chekhov's Gag: The blue letter seems like just a gag that gets Norville to meet Mussburger. It becomes an entire plot point when Hudsucker tells Norville to read it - it had been in his mail room smock the entire time - revealing that Hudsucker had bequeathed his controlling stake in the company to whoever was made his successor as CEO. Of course, Mussburger might have been the CEO had he not started his entire scheme to tank the stock so he could buy it out by giving the job to someone he thought was an idiot. Norville just happens to be the CEO... Oops.
Circle of Shame: Around Norville after he hits bottom. Though they quickly turn into an angry mob baying for blood.
Clock Tower: One of the defining features of the Hudsucker Industries building is its giant clock face, tended to by the mysterious, all-knowing Moses. The edges of the clock face can be seen from inside the executive offices.
Creator Cameo: The Coen Brothers are in silhouette during the Hula Hoop Montage, trying to figure out a name for the toy.
Da Editor: Amy Archer's editor (John Mahoney) is known only as Chief. He is as gruff and demanding as newspaper editors usually are in films, and has a good eye for potential big news stories. It is his suspicion of the motivation behind Hudsucker Industries' appointment of Norville as CEO that leads him to send Archer in undercover.
Deus ex Machina: Oh, so very much. After over an hour of film about business practices, Norville's attempt to kill himself is stopped when an Almighty Janitor stops a clock, thus STOPPING TIME, and giving Norville time to talk to the (deceased) ex-CEO.
How We Got Here: The film opens with Norville Barnes climbing onto the ledge outside his office window at midnight on New Year's Eve, preparing to jump to his death. We spend the next hour and a half learning about the events that have driven Norville to such depths of despair.
It Will Never Catch On: Nobody has much confidence in Norville's Hula Hoop. Norville similarly dismisses Buzz's idea for the Bendy Straw. No one doubts Norville's idea for the Frisbee will work by the end of the film.
Laser-Guided Karma: Sidney J. Mussburger. At the end of the film, he discovers that according to Hudsucker's will, he would have become majority owner of the company had he stepped in as CEO at Hudsucker's death, but by appointing Norville as CEO, he has made Norville majority owner instead. The revelation drives him to suicide, and he finishes the film in a sanitarium.
Literal Cliffhanger: Norville, after changing his mind about jumping and then slipping off the edge anyway.
Lost Will And Testament: Hudsucker didn't leave one behind, which is why Mussburger developed the proxy plan in the first place. Turns out, the blue letter Norville was supposed to deliver to Mussburger was the will, giving the stock to whomever the board appointed the new CEO of the company, giving Norville one heck of an Unexpected Inheritance.
Magical Negro: Moses, keeper of the Hudsucker Industries clock tower, not only has the keenest insights into the events of the film of any character, but also has the power to stop time itself by jamming the clock's mechanism.
The entire process detailing the invention and production of the Hula Hoop (aka Extruded Plastic Dingus). Detailed blueprints are produced and patented, the entire accounting department performs extensive research to come up with the retail price (of $1.79), a trio of guys run through countless names for the project, safety is practiced using explosives, and a fairly elaborate machine is used to make the things.
Rhymes on a Dime: "Hiya buddy, the name's Buzz, I got the fuzz, I make the elevator do what she does!"
Buzz: Mr. Kline, up to 9. Mrs. Nell, personnel. Mr. Levin, 37. Mr. Levin: Uh, 36 Buzz:Walk. Down.
Serious Business: A very literal example. The scene showing an ironic amount of Research and Development that went into designing... a circular piece of plastic. From blueprints with just a circle on them to an army of accountants to decide the MSRP.
"BLUE LETTER!!!" The mere sight of it causes Buzz and everyone else in the elevator with Norville to panic as Buzz decides to speed up Norville's journey to the boardroom.
Speaking Simlish: There's one instance where Norville claims to have studied Finnish and engages in a short discussion with a Mr. Finlandsson- not a single word of Finnish is actually spoken, but a rather Swedish-sounding string of nonsense, and the film plays this as if Barnes spoke something higly offensive to Mr. Finlandsson.
Springtime for Hitler: The executives' scheme to drive down Hudsucker Industries' stock price so they can buy it en masse for pennies on the dollar by appointing an idiot to be CEO backfires when said idiot CEO ends up making the company a fortune and actually causes an increase in the stock price.
Moses: And that's the story of how Norville Barnes climbed waaay up to the forty-fourth floor of the Hudsucker Building, and then fell all the way down but didn't quite squish hisself. You know, they say there was a man who jumped from the forty-fifth floor? But that's another story!
Time Stands Still: Time miraculously stops when a broomstick jams the gears of the clock tower, allowing Norville to survive the fall from the Hudsucker building ledge, have a chat with the angel of the late Mr. Hudsucker in mid-air, and learn that the company is all his according to the infamous Blue Letter... yet the snow never stops falling.