by David C. Terr
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Title: Life Stinks
Director: Mel Brooks
Starring: Mel Brooks, Lesley Ann Warren, Jeffrey Tambor
Release Date: July 26, 1991 (USA)
Running Time: 92 min
Life Stinks is a rather serious Mel Brooks comedy, in which he plays a billionaire who makes a bet with a colleague that he can survive in an LA ghetto for a month without any money or form of identification. Although the theme is quite serious, Brooks' acting is hilarious as usual. Lesley Ann Warren also does a terrific job as a homeless woman he meets and falls in love with.
- The Bet: Goddard Bolt, billionaire CEO of Bolt Enterprises, wants to build a new complex called Bolt Tower in an LA ghetto. Unfortunately, Vance Crasswell (Tambor), another billionaire and competitor of his, also wants to buy this neighborhood for his own project. He ends up betting Bolt that he can't survive in the ghetto for 30 days without any money or ID, telling him that if he manages to do so, he can have the land to build his tower. Bolt agrees to the bet.
- Life in the Ghetto: At first, Bolt has a very tough time to adjusting to his new life as a homeless bum. He tries performing on the street corner and washing car windows, to no avail. Eventually he finds a mission filled with other homeless people from the neighborhood, where he is able to eat. He makes friends with several derelicts, including a skinny old man named Sailor, a black man named Fumes, and an attractive woman named Molly (Warren). Among other things, they help him fight off some neighborhood thugs, who nearly kill him.
- Conclusion: Eventually 30 days pass and Bolt thinks he's won the bet, but then Crasswell and his associates betray him by telling him there was no bet and that he went crazy, confiscating his property. With no other choice, Bolt is forced to wander back into the ghetto with no posessions. He nearly dies from some inept overmedication at a local health clinic, but Molly confesses her love to him and he recovers. Then Crasswell comes with a wrecking crew, ready to destroy the neighborhood in order to build his new project, but Bolt persuades his friends to fight them off, which they do. Bolt knows how to operate a fork lift, so he uses it to fight off Crasswell, who eventually concedes the bet and the property to Bolt. Bolt then uses his money and influence to build an elaborate new neighborhood to help the homeless people there and marries Molly.
Life Stinks is one of the few movies I know of which addresses the pressing issue of homelessness, which I think Brooks does in a clever way. Interestingly, I had very much the same idea for the premise several years earlier. I recall telling a friend of mine when Reagan was president that I thought he or some of his associates should try living in the ghetto for a month to get a real idea of what homelessness is all about! Apparently this idea worked for Goddard Bolt in the movie, who becomes sympathetic to the homeless once he ends up living among them as one.