It tells the story of Jerry Baskin (Nolte), a homeless man who befriends the wealthy-but-stressed-out Dave Whiteman (Dreyfuss) and his equally stressed-out family after trying to drown himself in their pool.
This film contains examples of:
- Adopted to the House: The Whitemans invite Jerry to stay with them while he gets his head together.
- Ambiguously Gay: It's not entirely clear if Dave's son Max is gay or, according to Jenny, is just going through an androgynous phase. (He does, however, stare a little too long at Jerry's naked body while he's toweling off.)
- Berserk Button: Jerry "diddling" Dave's daughter Jenny is the last straw, after "diddling" his wife and his adulterous maid.
- Comically Missing the Point: At one point, Dave yells, "Call 911! Call 911!", while running with his own phone in his hand.
- Coming-Out Story: Gay or just androgynous, Max comes out to his dad, kissing him on the cheek.
- Darker and Edgier: From a meta-standpoint. This was the first R-rated Disney film, under their brand-new label Touchstone Pictures.
- Deadpan Snarker: Barbra, played by Bette Midler, of course.Dave: I ate garbage last night, Barbra — and I loved it.
Barbra: Good! You can eat garbage again tonight!
- Driven to Suicide: In the beginning of the film, Jerry tries to drown himself in the Whitemans' pool after being abandoned by his little dog Kerouac.
- The '80s: Not as obvious as most films of the era, though Max's andro get-up just screams "80's glam rock", and Barbara is rocking the '80s Hair.
- Ethnic Menial Labor: The Whitemans have a Latina maid named Carmen. Dave has been carrying on an affair with her for several years.
- Even the Dog Is Ashamed: Or embarrassed, judging by Matisse's reaction to Barbra's orgiastic moaning to Jerry's shiatsu.
- Le Film Artistique: The only way Max can communicate with his parents, it seems.
- Foreign Remake: Of Jean Renoir's 1932 French comedy Boudou Saved from Drowning.
- Gainax Ending: It seems like a Happy Ending, but David takes a moment to pause and wonder if it's such a bright idea to let Jerry back into the fold before heading in.
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Dave is having an affair with Carmen. Barbra knows but says nothing.
- Ironic Echo: At the start of the movie, Dave saves Jerry from downing in his swimming pool. At the end of the movie, Dave tries to drown Jerry in his swimming pool.
- Kavorka Man: Jerry eventually beds every female in Dave's household. It's hinted that if Jerry were inclined, he could easily have Max too.
- Large Ham: Little Richard being his Little Richard-est.
- Immodest Orgasm: Barbra has one when giving a deep tissue shiatsu massage from Jerry.Orvis: (hearing) Good God almighty!
- It Came from Beverly Hills: It's in the title.
- Meaningful Name: Dave's last name is Whiteman. When a homeless Native American calls him "white man", he puzzles "How did you know my name?"
- New Wave: Max and his friends in androgynous mode look like a young Culture Club.
- Off the Wagon: Dave noting this with a drunk Barbra.Dave: I thought we weren't going to drink anymore.
Barbara: (drunk) Well, Dave. Yeah, it's true. I am a vegetarian. But I hear... that vodka... comes from a potato!
- Papa Wolf: Dave tries to drown Jerry after he slept with his daughter.
- Pet the Dog: Jerry to the neighbor's Arab son. It earns him $500, though he didn't do it thinking he'd be rewarded.
- Pretty in Mink: In the film posters, Barbara is wearing a full length fox fur coat over her shoulders.
- Reality Ensues: Played with. Jerry admits he's been playing a part for the Whitemans, asking, "What did you want to hear? Real pain? Real sorrow?"
- The Remake: The film is an American remake of the French farce Boudu Saved from Drowning.
- Rule of Pool: Played absolutely straight during the climax, with Little Richard singing "Tutti Fruitti" while on the piano.
- Shown Their Work: Newly radicalized Carmen espouses her new Communist beliefs to one of the Chinese executives at a party. The latter dismisses her ranting as Marxist-Leninist bullshit, showing the differences between Sino-Russo Communism.
- Suspiciously Apropos Music: "Once in a Lifetime" is the film's theme, mirroring Dave's disillusionment with wealth.You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?"
- Theme Naming: Jerry's first dog is named after Jack Kerouac. His second dog is named after Henri Matisse.
- You Need to Get Laid: How Jerry makes Barbra less bitchy and gets anorexic Jenny to eat normally.