Monty Capuletti (Rodney Dangerfield) makes his living as a baby photographer, but he's not all sweetness and light, in fact nothing could be further from the truth. He prefers to spend his spare time drinking, smoking (both tobacco and marijuana in equal measure) and gambling, yet despite his mission to enjoy himself as often as possible he still feels put upon and long suffering, mainly because of his family. His daughter is getting married soon, but Monty is convinced her fiancé's family are gangsters and is not looking forward to the upcoming nuptials, and his wealthy mother-in-law Mrs Monahan (Geraldine Fitzgerald) is as gratingly disapproving as ever - but could all this be about to change?
A somewhat ramshackle comedy vehicle for Dangerfield's comic persona that had proved such a hit in Caddyshack, Easy Money was one of a handful of films that he was required to carry on his own. He was a gifted standup comedian, but a talent like that doesn't always carry over to the big screen; here, however, he co-wrote the script along with Michael Endler, Dennis Blair and, most notably, National Lampoon's P.J. O'Rourke, so there are plenty of one-liners tailored to the star - "The closest we got to food was when we nearly ran over a deer!" quips Monty while driving around searching for something to eat one night.
While the comic persona might be present and correct, the storyline is flimsy to say the least. Many Dangerfield fans won't be watching for the story anyway, and the film is perhaps best approached as a series of sketches, starting with Monty's efforts to bring home the wedding cake with the help of his friend Nicky (Joe Pesci), this after he has been wearing his daughter's wedding dress as a favour to his wife (Candice Azzara) while she tries sew it up. Scenes like this prove that Monty is as much the butt of the jokes as he is the teller of gags, and it's interesting to see Jennifer Jason Leigh in an uncharacteristically normal role as the eldest daughter, an unworldly virgin who remains reluctant to consummate her marriage.
That marriage provides fuel for a running joke that may well make you impatient while Dangerfield is not onscreen, but eventually, almost halfway into the film actually, the main plot arrives. Monty receives a phone call in the middle of the night to tell him that his mother-in-law has died, and so begins his endeavours to get his hands on the inheritance. The only way he can do that is if he gives up the smoking, drinking, overeating and gambling as ordered by Mrs Monahan, and if he has succeeded in doing so for a whole year the ten million dollars is his. And from there the comedy arises, but there's such a casual nature to the film that any "Will he? Won't he?" tension is absent. Perhaps you'll find it funniest if you're a middle aged slob like Monty, as that's who the humour seems to be aimed at, but there are enough amusements, mostly from the reliable Dangerfield, to prevent Easy Money from being a complete flop. Music by Laurence Rosenthal, with a theme song from Billy Joel.