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Film / Pure Luck

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A 1991 Buddy Picture comedy directed by Nadia Tess, starring Danny Glover and Martin Short. They're hired to travel to Mexico to find a missing heiress, Valerie (Sheila Kelley), who is extremely accident prone. Glover's character, Raymond Campanella, is going because he's a professional investigator. Short's character, Eugene Proctor, is an accountant who's been sent because he also has exceptionally bad luck, and an employee of Valerie's father's believes that he might literally stumble upon her. Hilarity Ensues.

The film is a very close remake of the 1981 French film Knock on Wood (original title La Chèvre — "the goat") directed by Francis Veber and starring Pierre Richard and Gérard Depardieu. It was the third and last attempt to remake Richard's comedies — not the failure of The Man with One Red Shoe but still below the moderate success of Three Fugitives.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Apparently Powerless Puppetmaster: Raymond is convinced to allow Eugene to believe that he is leading the investigation on Valerie's whereabouts, while he really is doing the leading. Comes without saying that most of their vitriol comes from Raymond not quite being able to keep his attitude in check and Eugene letting the power go to his head.
  • Bee Afraid: Double subversion. The kidnappers' plane with Valerie crashed somewhere in jungle. Raymond expects Eugene to crash in the same area. Shortly before boarding the plane Eugene says that a bee is following him and he's allergic to bees. At this point viewers can guess what is going to cause the crash. But then the bee just leaves. Raymond assumes that the bad luck has switched its target again and it's his turn to be the Chew Toy. Then the bee comes back and stings Eugene who swells comically and has to stay in hospital (where he learns of the village Valerie burned by accident).
  • Butt-Monkey: Eugene is the most active slapstick (and life-risking) version, while Raymond receives a variety of embarrassing disasters (like being subjected to a barrage of Police Brutality after being wrongly arrested, or not having hot water) just from being around Eugene.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Eugene believing that his luck (which has nearly killed him repeatedly throughout his life) is good luck. In his defense, the therapist makes him believe that as part of the general scheme of making him believe he is the leader. On the other hand, unlike another unlucky person mentioned by the therapist, Eugene has survived all those misfortunes, so maybe there is something to it.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Eugene is a rare male version. Valerie is this trope played straight... both to Walking Disaster Area levels.
  • Easy Amnesia: The plot starts because Valerie bonks her head and forgets who she is. The people who try to take advantage of this soon come to regret it.
  • Epic Fail: It takes an exceptional type of failing luck to lead the lives Eugene and Valerie have lived... including such disasters as stopping on the sole spot with loose sand in the middle of the Mexican desert (leaving the car stranded and the pair exposed to a drive-by shooting) and setting an entire village on fire while making breakfast (one of Valerie's worst off-screen acts).
  • Failed a Spot Check: After a local criminal robs Eugene, Raymond takes a break from tracking down the alleged kidnapper to help him. They raid a poker game to force the criminal to repay Eugene. After they leave, they go back to tracking down the kidnapper. Raymond takes out a picture of him and realizes he was at the poker game.
  • Foreign Remake: Of the French film Knock on Wood (La Chevre). Very faithful to the original. There is only one new scene — when a gorilla tries to kidnap Eugene, falls off a tree and runs away.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: A wild gorilla in Mexican jungle.
  • Takes One to Kill One: Well, not kill, but after Raymond is utterly incapable of finding Valerie by his own, he is convinced by Valerie's father and a therapist to use Eugene (who has the exact same amount of horrible luck and klutziness) as a "divining rod" to track Valerie's whereabouts. Much to Raymond's displeasure, this works.
  • The Klutz: Eugene and Valerie are both supreme examples. At the same time, they're always fine in the end. Even at the end of the film, when the pier Eugene and Valerie are standing on breaks off, Raymond is not worried, as he knows both of them will come through it with, at most, minor bruises.
  • Long List: The list of disasters that have happened to Valerie and Eugene, said to convince Raymond about the "luck tracker" theory. Raymond is unable to believe it and downs his scotch afterwards.
    • Also, after Eugene gets a bloody nose, Raymond tells him to go to the airport's infirmary and get it looked at. Later, Raymond is waiting, and Eugene arrives. Apparently, he's been in the infirmary a really long time. When Raymond asks, Eugene explains that they wanted his entire medical history. Given what's been happening to him all his life, it's a really long medical history.
  • Pity the Kidnapper: The ones that try to take advantage of Valerie have it very bad. For starters, her having Easy Amnesia and her documents stolen by a pickpocket while she's still reeling from the impact that created it make it impossible for them to identify her (and thus cannot simply tell her father that they have her) and their attempts to profit from hear through other means are all demolished by her horrifically bad luck. By the time Eugene and Raymond find the kidnapper, he's fearing for his life because said disasters have pissed off a big-time drug dealer, and when he's hit on a drive-by he just calmly accepts that Valerie's luck was the end of him.
  • South of the Border: The entire film takes place in Mexico.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Roger Ebert noted that the trailer for Pure Luck was the funniest in ages - and it turned out that the trailer simply showed what few laughs were in the film.
    Ebert: I have a friend who says the coming attraction for “Pure Luck” is the funniest one she's ever seen. On the basis of it, she can't wait to attend the movie. Even when I warned her against it, she wouldn't listen; any movie with a trailer that funny had to be worth seeing.
  • Trauma Button: When Raymond and Eugene arrive to a hospital to get Eugene treated for a bee sting, they discover that Valerie burnt down a nearby town accidentally while making breakfast and meet one of the survivors of the fire. The poor man is utterly catatonic in his bed, but when shown a picture of Valerie, he screams. Raymond shows him the picture several times just to be sure and then puts it away while saying "he met her, all right".
  • Unscrewed Salt Shaker: Raymond decides to test Eugene's bad luck for himself and does this. He unscrews one salt shaker and puts it alongside a screwed one near Eugene, while Eugene is out. When Eugene comes back, contrary to Raymond's expectations, he grabs the normal one... only for a waiter to come by and ask for one of the shakers. Eugene gives him the one he's holding and then uses the unscrewed one. After dumping all the salt on his food, he calmly proceeds to eat it without any negative reactions. Obviously, this happens to him frequently enough that he's gotten used to the overly salty food.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: By the end of the film Raymond and Eugene are closer as comrades, although Raymond do spends some time wanting to frag Eugene for the misfortunes he's had to endure as collateral damage to Eugene's massive unluck.
  • Walking Disaster Area: Eugene and Valerie. People die or are subjected to Police Brutality Disproportionate Retribution, and entire towns are burnt to the ground with them around.