Review: ‘Happy New Year’

Crime pays off in this unpretentious buddy picture about two middle-aged jewel thieves going for the big score in Palm Beach [based on Claude Lelouch's 1973 film La bonne annee]. Topliners Peter Falk and Charles Durning team with an easygoing charm.

Crime pays off in this unpretentious buddy picture about two middle-aged jewel thieves going for the big score in Palm Beach [based on Claude Lelouch’s 1973 film La bonne annee]. Topliners Peter Falk and Charles Durning team with an easygoing charm.

Film is funniest and most engrossing in the first hour or so when Falk and Durning are casing the Palm Beach branch of Harry Winston, jewelers. This leads to a series of amusing encounters with the fey and smarmy jewelry store manager Edward Sanders (expertly rendered by Tom Courtenay), who from Falk’s hardboiled honor-among-thieves perspective is a soulless money-grubber deserving the worst.

Along the way Falk meets and falls for a beautiful, high-toned antiques dealer, Carolyn Benedict (Wendy Hughes), who moves in a circle of insufferably smug and wealthy pseudo-sophisticates.

Although the film sags towards its resolution, director John G. Avildsen handles the story with a light touch, including a gentle soundtrack of pre-rock ‘n’ roll standards that would be at home in a Woody Allen film, and a cameo by Lelouch, who directed the original French film.

1987: Nomination: Best Makeup

Happy New Year

Production

Columbia/Delphi IV. Dir John G. Avildsen; Producer Jerry Weintraub; Screenplay Warren Lane [= Nancy Dowd]; Camera James Crabe; Editor Jane Kurson; Music Bill Conti Art Dir William J. Cassidy

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1987. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Peter Falk Charles Durning Wendy Hughes Tom Courtenay Joan Copeland Tracy Brooks Swope
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