The Couch Trip
From the Chicago Reader (January 15, 1988). — J.R.
While this isn’t quite the return to form for satirist Michael Ritchie (Smile, Semi-Tough) that he apparently meant it to be, given his many years in the wilderness as an anonymous contract director, it’s funny enough in spots to suggest the possibility. Dan Aykroyd shines as a clever inmate at a Chicagoland mental hospital who contrives to escape, fly to LA, and take over the job of a wealthy Beverly Hills psychiatrist (Charles Grodin), who is flipping out and has temporarily retreated to London. The movie gets some nice laughs at the expense of exploitative shrinks, and develops a Capraesque scenario as Aykroyd proceeds to show up his predecessor with brassy nerve and populist wisdom. Unfortunately, what appears to be studio tampering makes the movie steadily lose coherence, and a couple of important secondary characters — Donna Dixon (another psychiatrist) and Walter Matthau (a con artist along for the ride) — seem to get shortchanged in the process. Still, this is agreeable fun while it lasts, and what remains of the script — by Steven Kampmann, Will Porter, and Sean Stein, adapted from a Ken Kolb novel — is satirically convincing much of the time. Read more