Bonfire of the Vanities [1990]

Handle with care--this one's a bomb! Director Brian De Palma seemed an unlikely choice to transfer Tom Wolfe's mammoth bestseller-- a vibrantly satiric story about race, politics, and greed in 1980s New York--to the screen. In this case, the first impression was correct. Made with a tin ear to everything that made the book so real, the movie gets it wrong every time, starting with casting Tom Hanks in the central role (which, as anyone with brains knew, should have been played by William Hurt). Move along to the choice of Bruce Willis for the sneaky British tabloid journalist and, well, need I say more? As stylish as any De Palma film, this story of a Wall Street broker whose extramarital shenanigans trigger a racial incident that becomes front-page news gets no help from Michael Cristofer's tone-deaf script. After watching it, read Julie Salomon's behind-the-scenes book about its making, The Devil's Candy, which is much more entertaining. --Marshall Fine

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