There’s an ambition to Greed y one simply has to admire. The concept – that a small army of potential heirs will stoop lower than a limbo dancer to pick up the pelf of a stinking-rich relative – is both timeless and timely. Yet the idea quickly goes awry as the filmmakers find themselves at sea deciding whether this is a notion to disdain or embrace.
The yarn centers on the McTeague brood (a cinematic reference to the protagonist of von Stroheim’s silent masterpiece Greed , based upon Frank Norris’ novel McTeague), who live for the death of wheelchair-bound Uncle Joe (Kirk Douglas), a snarly, reprehensible curmudgeon who made a fortune in scrap metal.
Joe barely veils his contempt for the sycophants. But the big bombshell is the arrival of Molly (Olivia d’Abo), a nubile Brit who graduated from delivering pizza into becoming Joe’s so-called nurse. The little ace the warring clan turns up is Daniel McTeague Jr (Michael J. Fox), about to give up the pro bowler tour as a result of a developing arthritic wrist. He’s susceptible to the lure of money.
Director Jonathan Lynn knows exactly what elements to emphasize when the action moves through breakneck drawing-room comedy. But the script aims higher, embracing pathos even when the results are pure bathos.