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Film / Brewster's Millions (1985)

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"I believe in being honest, Brewster. No bullshit. I'm stuck with you. But...we're gonna have some fun."

Brewster's Millions is a 1985 comedy movie directed by Walter Hill and starring Richard Pryor and John Candy. It is adapted from the 1902 novel of the same name written by George Barr McCutcheon.

Pryor plays Monty Brewster, an impoverished minor-league baseball pitcher who learns that a long-lost millionaire relative has just died and named him as heir. Monty can either take $1 million upfront and walk away, or take on a challenge to spend $30 million in 30 days. There are strict rules he has to follow, such as limits on how much he can give to charity or lose by gambling, and he has to end the month owning nothing that he didn't already own and tell no one about the challenge. If he can pull it off, he inherits $300 million; if he falls short or breaks any of the rules, he gets nothing.

As Monty starts hemorrhaging money as fast as he can, he soon realizes a horrible truth: it's amazingly difficult to lose an incredible amount of money.note 

John Candy plays Spike Nolan, Monty's best friend, and Lonette McKee plays Angela Drake, the paralegal assigned to accompany Monty and keep track of his spending.

This film contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Rupert's father locked him away in a closet when he was seven years old after getting caught smoking a cigar. The boy wasn't allowed out until he smoked an entire box of cigars, without any food or water. Three days later he finished, and the experience taught him a most painful lesson that he passes down onto his great nephew.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the original book, nobody tries to cheat Brewster out of the titular millions. In the film, the lawyers in charge of executing the will try to make Brewster lose the challenge so they can collect a fee for distributing the full inheritance to the charities chosen by Brewster's benefactor as alternative beneficiaries.
  • All or Nothing: If Brewster fails the challenge, he gets nothing, and he has to give back whatever's left over of (or gained from) the $30 million.
  • Amicable Exes: Monty hires Warren and his interior decorator ex-wife to decorate an apartment, and the two tend to get along well.
  • Amoral Attorney: The lawyers in charge of executing the will are actively plotting to cheat Brewster out of his inheritance.
  • Bail Equals Freedom: Subverted. Monty and Spike are arrested for a bar fight and given a choice between posting bail and showing up later for a trial or pleading guilty and paying a fine. If not for the lawyers looking for Brewster to inform him about an Unexpected Inheritance, they wouldn't be able to afford either option.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Warren, Angela's fiance, seems moral and upstanding. And then he plots with Monty's lawyers to cheat him out of the will.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Monty was unaware his grandmother was the product of an affair with a white man and black woman, implying this trope. note .
  • Brick Joke: Monty is told that, after the thirty days, he can only have the clothes on his back or he loses the challenge. When the challenge ends, Brewster puts on the same baseball uniform he was wearing before the challenge started.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: The first order Monty Brewster gives his newly hired head of security is for the man to go into the vault and collect $2 million in cash "for whatever expenses come up." The guard is later seen hauling around a single locked briefcase that he keeps handcuffed to his wrist.
  • Brutal Honesty: Rupert makes it clear he is unimpressed with what Monty's made of his life, hence the 30-day challenge.
  • The Cameo: Rick Moranis puts in a brief appearance as "Morty King, King of the Mimics."
  • Casual Sports Jersey: Exaggerated. When Monty is due to meet with the lawyers that control his deceased relative's inheritance in their boardroom, he wears his jersey and his cap.
  • Composite Character: In the novel, Brewster has two benefactors: his grandfather, who leaves him the original small fortune with no strings attached, and his uncle, who leaves him the larger fortune on condition that he succeeds in the challenge to dispose of the smaller one. In the film, there's just one benefactor, Monty's great uncle Rupert Horn, and the small fortune is part of the challenge from the beginning.
  • Consolation Prize: The will has a "wimp" clause that allows Monty to receive $1 million and let the law firm in charge of Rupert's estate donate the rest to various charities. If he accepts the challenge, it's All or Nothing.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Angela Drake subverts this trope: she shows a softer side when Brewster begins to act more charitably, but her overall personality never truly changes, and she doesn't enter into a relationship with Brewster despite his best efforts.
  • Did Not Think This Through:
    • Brewster is reminded that the office of Mayor comes with a substantial salary, and his newfound popularity may make him win even if he drops out.
    • With $20,000 left to spend and only minutes before the deadline, Brewster seems to have lost. Then Warren Cox threatens to sue him... in front of Brewster's paralegal, who is well aware of the will. Brewster immediately pays her the last $20,000 as a retainer, wins the challenge, and inherits the whole $300 million. note 
  • Disproportionate Reward: Downplayed. Rupert's will stops Monty from just giving his money away (aside from certain amounts that can be donated to charity and lost by gambling). If he wants to give money to someone, he has to hire them and get some valuable service in return.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: Brewster's benefactor plays it straight, while Brewster himself merely invokes the trope, since he only appears to be extremely eccentric.
  • Exact Words: The will only forbids unnecessary destruction of valuable goods. If they're devalued by using them as intended, there's no problem. Brewster uses this to his advantage, buying a massively-expensive postage stamp and using it to mail a postcard (causing it to lose all its value when it gets canceled), and buying large amounts of expensive wine and then actually serving it.
  • Fat Best Friend: Spike.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: The challenge Brewster goes through for the full inheritance is meant as a lesson in how to avoid this trope.
  • Foreshadowing: Warren's self-centered nature, and later conspiring to defraud Monty with the other lawyers, is seen when he declares himself a teetotaler to Monty...only to then drink champagne because he wants to kiss up to Monty.
  • Friendless Background: Rupert never had any peers or close friends throughout his life, and ensures one of the conditions for Monty to inherit his fortune is that he can't ask anyone for help in spending the $30 million. As he put it, no one helped him when his father locked him in a closet years ago to smoke a whole box of cigars as punishment.
  • Gone Horribly Right: This is the case from Brewster's point of view when the hare-brained schemes he invests in end up succeeding.
  • Guile Hero: Gradually, Monty manages to find sneaky ways to blow his money, such as mailing an expensive rare stamp (removing its value as an asset, while still getting a service from it) and then running an incredibly overpriced mayoral campaign and dropping out at the last minute.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Angela Drake.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Monty makes himself look like a fool with his frivolous spending. He's painfully aware of this, and some of the drama is the tension this causes with his friends since they actively want to stop his (seemingly) reckless behavior.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Spike is the only person who sticks by Monty even before he inherits money and gets angrily defensive when Donaldo accuses him of being Gold Digger. This is problematic for Monty since Spike helping him is detrimental to his actual goal.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Brewster comes across at first as a working-class schmuck, a minor-league baseball player with little money or prospects. Brewster's Uncle Rupert states openly that he's disappointed in Brewster but has to name Brewster in the will because "I'm stuck with you." But as time goes on, Brewster finds more and more creative ways to waste money while staying within the conditions of the contest, from financing an expensive exhibition game, to buying a rare stamp and then using it to mail a postcard, to buying a supply of expensive wine and then opening the bottles and serving them. When he has a serious setback and thinks he has no chance of making the deadline, he comes up with a perfect way to drain his bank account — run for Mayor, spend through the roof on his campaign then purposely tank the election so he doesn't win and collect the salary that the job offers.
    • Spike has a somewhat savvy head for finance, and is able to become modestly wealthy himself with the salary that Brewster pays him. He also repeatedly tries to advise Brewster tone down his carefree spending (unaware that it is the conditions of his inheritance) and even manages to earn some money for Brewster by making good investments.
    • Most of Brewster's employees, save photographer JB Donaldo, avert being Fair-Weather Friend by taking up a collection for him as they realize he's going bankrupt, which he must quickly find a carefully-worded way to refuse.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Inverted. While Rupert reads out the will's terms he cannot tell his friends about the challenge, he neglectfully doesn't protect his would-be benefactor from his friends either, much to Monty's dismay. If his friends spend/earn money, it makes the challenge nigh-impossible.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Rupert makes it clear in his video will how disappointed he is with Monty for his lack of success, which is one of the reasons he forces him through the challenge and giving him a "wimp clause" of just one million (which Monty declines).
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: The law firm scoffs at Monty's decision to purchase the "Inverted Jenny" very rare stamp as it counts as an asset, believing he doesn't understand the rules to Rupert's challenge. However a postcard came for them that same morning with said stamp, now used. It's no longer an asset, and he didn't destroy or give it away, as it was used for its original intended purpose.
  • Jerkass:
    • JB Donaldo, the photographer. When the rest of Brewster's staff puts up a collection to help keep Brewster from being completely broke, Donaldo is against donating any of his money, lying about not having his wallet with him and being forced into helping.
    • The stamp store owner is a downplayed version of this: it is implied he is prejudiced against black men. When Monty enters his store, his security guard hovers around him and he automatically assumes Monty would be too poor to afford his products...until he learns Monty is the Montgomery Brewster who loves spending his money.
  • Jerk With A Heartof Gold: Warren's ex wife Marilyn. While snobbish and haughty, she genuinely wants to decorate Monty's room to his liking and is saddened when he runs out of money and can't keep it.
  • Just Between You and Me: Warren Cox spills the beans about the fix to Angela Drake in this manner; she then quickly informs Monty.
  • Just for the Heli of It: Brewster flies his minor-league baseball team in on helicopters for a press event before an exhibition game between the team and the New York Yankees (which Brewster paid to make happen). The coach says the team will be tired after the trip—which was completely unnecessary because they're just over in New Jersey and could've gotten there faster on the bus—but Brewster says he did it to make an impression. (Of course he's not allowed to mention the real reason for taking the expensive option.)
  • Karmic Misfire: Despite having done nothing to start the bar fight, Monty and Spike both end up in jail and charged with several felonies.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: When the movie begins, Angela is purely professional with her hair up, but near the end she sports a lady 'fro.
  • The Load: Because of the terms and conditions of Rupert's will, Monty is strictly forbidden to tell his friends he has to spend 10% of his great uncle's estate in a month, or forfeit the entire fortune. His best friend Spike plays into this trope as he keeps making investments on his behalf, that keep increasing not decreasing, his total assets.
  • Lonely at the Top: Rupert died a wealthy man...but he has no friends or family to speak of, with his only relative to give his money to being Monty.
  • Loophole Abuse: Subverted. Monty can purchase anything he wants, but he cannot get rid of any assets by destroying them, i.e. using Picasso paintings as matchwood for a fire. No different than burning the thirty million, it has inherent value, and he'll immediately fail his Great Uncle's challenge. note  However: Brewster is allowed to use any assets he acquires for their original intended purpose without forfeiting the 300 million fortune. He mailed the very rare "Inverted Jenny" stamp back to the legal firm, wiping out its value as an asset without destroying it, because the stamp's inherent value was to be used for postage. He later purchases very expensive vintage wine for parties, because the purpose of those drinks, was to be consumed.
  • Money to Burn: Defied. Rupert makes it clear Monty can't burn any of his assets, such as buying a bunch of Picasso paintings and using them for firewood, or he'll lose the challenge.
  • Money to Throw Away: Defied, again. Monty is forbidden to give the thirty million away to anyone else, except for a small amount allotted for gambling and charity, as that would defeat the entire point of the challenge.
  • Mythology Gag: If Monty chooses not to take the challenge, he walks away with $1 million, the consolation prize specified in the "wimp" clause. In the novel, Brewster also has the option to decline the challenge and walk away with $1 million, but in that case (minus eight decades of inflation) the $1 million is the entire amount he was challenged to spend.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Spike makes good investments on Monty's behalf and earns him some money, inadvertently hampering Monty's efforts since he doesn't know about the challenge.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The film features crooked lawyers who are trying to screw Brewster out of the deal. The junior partner of the firm, Warren Cox, "fixes" things twice: he informs Brewster's paralegal of the true nature of the inheritance (since Brewster isn't the one who tells her, the conditions of the will are not breached), then he threatens to sue after Brewster punches him in the face. Because the deadline had not yet been reached, Brewster hires his now-aware paralegal and uses all of the money that he had left over as a retainer fee. If Cox had just kept his mouth shut for a few more minutes, Brewster would have lost. (In addition, Cox was not supposed to have known about the deal, which meant Brewster would have won by default anyway.)
  • Nice to the Waiter: Brewster's generosity earns him the admiration of his many employees, but this only means they want to help him when he starts going under.
  • N-Word Privileges: In the Video Will, Brewster's white great-uncle snarks if Brewster is surprised his long lost relative was a honky.
  • The Oner: The scene where Monty hysterically re-emerges from the office and everyone follows him into the elevator, and Spike's delayed reaction to news of the inheritance.
  • On One Condition: And it's a doozy of a condition. A few smaller conditions come with it, but they're meant to prevent Loophole Abuse: Brewster can't have any assets after the challenge (except for anything he owned before it began); he can't tell anyone what he's doing or why; he can't just give all the money away; he must get value for the services of anyone he hires; he can only spend 5% each on charities and gambling; and he can't buy expensive goods, then destroy them or give them away.
  • Plague of Good Fortune:
    • This trope seems to kick in for Brewster right when he doesn't want it to. Every time he turns around, he either is getting helped by his friends who think his bad decisions are the result of a gambling and drinking habit, or he's winning at the failed stocks he throws his money behind.
    • Hilariously inverted when the mayoral candidates are so sick of Monty's Malicious Slander, they sue the pants off of him, unaware that this would help his real goal.
  • Plot-Triggering Death
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: This is how Monty's great-uncle concludes the Video Will.
    Rupert Horn: [You] can go for the big one, Brewster. The three hundred million. But if you fail ... you don't. Get. DIDDLY!
  • Race Against the Clock: This happens for most of the story, but it's openly invoked in the final scene as Angela writes a receipt for her services as a lawyer before the clock strikes midnight.
  • Race Lift: Richard Pryor as Brewster, which leads to this line from Horn: "What's the matter? Didn't know your great-uncle was a honky?"
  • Radish Cure: Giving someone millions of dollars and forcing them to spend it all within a short period of time might make them sick to the back teeth of both money and spending it. Monty's uncle, Rupert Horn, says he was given a Radish Cure by his father to discourage a possible smoking habit. Horn used this experience as motivation for creating Monty's challenge. And since nobody helped Rupert with the Radish Cure, he forces Brewster to avoid telling his friends about the condition (as they'd help Brewster win the challenge).
  • Random Events Plot: The film follows a series of various humorous attempts to get rid of an exorbitant amount of money in a short amount of time.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Edward Roundfield officially acts as an independent observer with no claim or stake in the bet. The law firm overseeing the will brings him in to make sure the will's details are carried out to the letter. He makes a point of being impartial, but in practice, he's clearly fond of Brewster and more sympathetic to his dilemma, since Brewster's a down-to-earth nice guy. He casually mentions that the deadline is midnight on the last day, then accepts the final receipt for the last $20,000 as the midnight chimes are ringing on the clock he'd earlier glanced at. He also makes clear he is going to organize a lawsuit against the crooked lawyers who tried to scam Monty.
  • Silly Will: Brewster is challenged to spend $30 million in 30 days in order to inherit $300 million. The hurdle is that he can't acquire assets, donate, or simply throw the money away, and nobody else may know what he's doing. He spends the movie hiring assistants, renting hotels, and baffling his friends who think money drove him insane.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Brewster tries to blow a load of money by betting on longshots, but the longshots storm home and make him even more money. When he tries to lose money by investing in a worthless stock, the stock's value skyrockets after everyone else buys in. He tries to waste it on a frivolous political campaign, but the voters are attracted to his message and almost vote for him (which would have left him with a job and a salary, thus nullifying the inheritance), so Monty convinces people to vote for "None of the Above" and eventually drops out of the race.
  • Suspicious Spending: Several characters jump to dark conclusions about where Brewster got the money.
  • The Only Way They Will Learn: After being punished by his father when he was seven years old and forced to finish an entire box of cigars he opened, Rupert intends to make Monty sick of what he wants to do most - spend money.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: The editing in the video will scene makes it seem as if the two are sharing a direct back-and-forth dialogue.
    Rupert Horn: [in the video will] So, here's my proposition: you have thirty days in which to spend thirty million bucks. If you can do it, you get three hundred million!
    Monty Brewster: [to himself] There's gotta be a catch.
    Rupert Horn: Of course there's a catch!
  • Undying Loyalty: Monty earns this from Spike and most of his staff...but it causes him problems since accepting their help means he'll lose the challenge.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: The millions come from a relative he didn't even know before being informed of the inheritance.
  • Unluckily Lucky: Brewster finds himself surrounded by incredibly helpful friends, staff, and advisors, and some of his frivolous investments and bets end up working. But this sets Monty's (real) goal back, much to his anger and frustration.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Since Brewster can't tell his friends why he's trying to lose money, they engage in well-meaning attempts to stem the flow by investing or saving it sensibly (much to Brewster's dismay).
  • Vandalism Backfire: Rupert warns Monty via Video Will that if he thinks he can just buy a load of Picasso paintings in assets and burn them before the deadline, he can think again. Destruction of anything inherently valuable will result in automatic disqualification and he forfeits everything.
  • Video Wills: Brewster's great-uncle uses one to deliver his challenge.
  • Villain Ball: Warren decides to gloat to Angela about not only the scheme but his role in foiling Monty's efforts...which not only leads to Monty getting his money but the crooked lawyers and getting sued by Monty for fraud.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Two lawyers at the firm representing Brewster's great-uncle try to cheat Brewster out of his inheritance so they can earn a rather sizeable fee from the full $300 million before it's divided up to various charities. As time runs out on Brewster's chance to earn the inheritance, Angela informs Monty of the scheme. The resulting confrontation results in Monty completing the challenge and earning his inheritance—just as the clock finishes striking midnight.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: This is excusable to make it easy for the audience. People around Brewster tell him repeatedly that he has wasted thirty million dollars when he has had at least ten million added onto that total. Saying "forty million" would be more accurate. But the audience is in on the bet, so the film avoids possible confusion by only using the "thirty million" number.