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FOCUSfilm Entertainment presents

Ryder, P.I. (1986)

Eppie: This blue soda is you bought is really bad.
Ryder: I didn't buy any soda.
Eppie: Well, it's really bad.
Ryder: It's window cleaner! You're drinking window cleaner! I don't believe it!
Eppie: It's still flat.- Bob Nelson, Dave Hawthorne

Stars: Dave Hawthorne, Bob Nelson, Frances Raines
Other Stars: John Mulrooney, Howard Stern, Bob Woods, Jackie Martling, Rhonda Hansome
Director: Karl Hosch, Chuck Walker

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for (language, violence, rude humor)
Run Time: 01h:33m:13s
Release Date: 2001-06-19
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C-CA- C-


DVD Review

Sometimes you get the feeling that some people just got a mess of their friends together, had a vague idea of a storyline, and just went ahead and shot a movie. That's the clear message given by the shot-on-video feature Ryder, P.I., which features scads of mostly unknown New York comedians in a detective satire that has a plot so thin it can slide through the mailslot.

We know we're in trouble when we start off with a Mickey Spillanesque hard boiled voiceover. Skyler Ryder (Dave Hawthorne) is a mostly inept private detective, partnered with dimwitted Eppie (Bob Nelson). After botching a tail by following the wrong woman for over a year, the pair run across an attempted mugging of a young woman and a theft from the diamond exchange that are happening simultaneously. The young woman, Valerie Mason (Frances Raines) shows up on Ryder's doorstep and soon a subtle romance bubbles up between the two. Thrown into this is a subplot involving a South American cocaine lord (complete with a sneezing-into-the-coke gag swiped from Woody Allen).

The whole thing doesn't make much sense, but it's probably not meant to. The directors were clearly looking for an Airplane! type movie, packed with nonstop gags, but they don't quite get into that territory. The only consistently funny character is the hapless Eppie, who gives Hank Kimball a run for his money on the dumbness meter, to mix a metaphor. He has plenty of charmingly stupid affectations, such as wearing a Fred Flintstone pin in honor of the 17th anniversary of syndication of the cartoon. Bob Nelson is winningly idiotic in the role. Frances Raines is bland though cute as the romantic interest. Dave Hawthorne can't quite carry this film as the main character, being not quite as rotund as Chris Farley nor as funny as John Candy. Bob Woods as Professor Throckmorton, a computer expert, does an annoying shtick consisting of lame imitations that are uniformly unfunny. However, he's so determined that it almost becomes enjoyable after a while. One of the most bizarre concepts in the movie is Throckmorton's supercomputer, which is personified by a furry hand puppet named Leroy who will only respond to Throckmorton doing a black-inflected voice. Very strange indeed.

Not surprisingly from the PG-13 rating, there are plenty of grossout jokes, including snot on toast and cat-poop-eating in a humorously nasty breakfast scene. There's more than one can comfortably manage in polite company, but not enough or over-the-top enough to really satisfy Farrelly Brothers fans. The humor is heavily Jewish, with comedy coming from names like Plotnik, etc. Those with a taste for such comedy will probably enjoy this film.

Howard Stern has a small bit part as a TV newscaster who loses his composure; he's not nearly as funny as Hal Spear as Heather Smith, the omnipresent reporter in the field. Stern fans can get their fix from the extras, however.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The nonanamorphic widescreen transfer shows the shortcomings of shooting on video. The picture is soft and streaky, looking as if it were a dupe of a low-grade VHS. Colors are decent though a bit on the dated side. Black levels are surprisingly good, considering the source material. I question whether this can look any better than this presentation, though.

Image Transfer Grade: C

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Surround audio track is surprisingly quite good. There is a very wide front soundstage, and there is nearly constant activity in the surrounds. Bass extension is very good, and the sound is not clipped or distorted. Hiss and noise are nominal.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Outtakes
Extras Review: A mildly amusing trailer is included. The only other extra is nearly 20 minutes of outtake footage. The first 12 minutes appears to be every single take of Howard Stern's two short scenes. They are clearly near entirely improvised on the set, and include Stern molesting female studio staff on the anchor desk, among other tacky material. The balance features footage of Leroy that wasn't used in the film, mostly because he was supposed to be smoking a cigarette and the hand puppet couldn't quite manage the trick. Not much, but better than nothing.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

An iffy New York detective comedy that's not much to look at. The sound is good. Worth a rental, maybe, if there's nothing else that excites you.

Mark Zimmer 2001-07-25