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Bus driver Ralph Kramden is an idea man—except all his ideas are cockamamy get-rich-quick schemes. He’s usually able to talk his best friend and upstairs neighbor, Ed Norton, into joining him in his harebrained plans, much to the chagrin of their long-suffering wives, Alice and Trixie.
In this modern-day take on the 1950s sitcom, the wives have plans to move out of their cramped apartments near the elevated train tracks into a duplex home in a nice neighborhood, but they each have to come up with a $10,000 down payment in a week, before a land developer buys the entire block. Of course, Ralph has other plans for what little money they’ve saved. In fact, he has already spent it without telling Alice.
The problem with Ralph’s schemes is that they tend to become money sinks, sucking ever more cash down the drain just to keep the original half-baked plot afloat. Ralph’s Plan B to save Plan A (which was to turn an antique train car into a tourist attraction) is to race a greyhound that he and Ed found in a dumpster. Soon, Ralph must throw his lot in with a shady dog-track owner and an even shadier dog trainer to get back his investment. Only this time more than money is at stake; his marriage to Alice is on the line.
Despite the economic trials their husbands put them through, both wives stick by their men. Ed remains a faithful friend despite frequent verbal abuse from Ralph. And truth be told, Ralph and Ed’s striving is ultimately for the betterment of their families, not simply to be rich for its own sake. When confronted with his foolishness, Ralph admits his error and begs Alice to forgive him, which she does. A woman turns down a bigger offer for her property because she wants to sell it to her friends.
Alice’s mom wants Jesus to “answer the prayers of a righteous woman”—in this case, to be rid of her son-in-law, Ralph. Ed says, “Oh, you’re going straight to hell” after Ralph spikes his mother-in-law’s meal with cayenne pepper. When he thinks he’s going to die, Ed says, “I gotta get right with the Lord.” (He confesses to lusting after Ralph’s wife.) The family says grace over a meal.
There's an on-again, off-again drizzle of mild-to-medium double entendres and innuendo. For example, in the context of speaking about his job as a sewer worker, Ed mentions that he does his best work “down below,” at which his wife vigorously agrees. During a coin toss, Ed also mentions that he has a big appetite for “tails,” at which Ralph cocks an eyebrow.
Worried about money, Ed tells Ralph that they “need to pimp some midgets.” An older woman asks Ralph if he’s having a problem with “ho’s.” Dodge uses several sexual euphemisms while telling Ralph about having had sex with a "very skinny woman." Ed tells Ralph that he once accidentally saw Alice naked and still sometimes thinks about it. The two men discuss different women’s body shapes. One of Dodge’s many business cards says he is an “S&M fashion consultant.” Another alludes to importing "underage mail-order brides."
Mostly slapstick violence and pratfalls such as Ed falling off the back of a sofa or accidentally banging his head on a pipe. A man is accidentally hit in the head with a pool ball, and then Ralph and Ed are physically thrown out of the pool hall. A fire escape collapses beneath Ralph and Ed, leaving them hanging on for dear life. Ralph reaches into a small fire to retrieve a business card. During a confrontation with a man who wants to buy "their" house, Trixie asks Alice, “Should I cut him?” A couple of times Ralph makes gestures and mutters things that let you know he'd love to sock his mother-in-law.
Crude or Profane Language
Ten-plus uses of “d---.” Add up “a--“ and “h---“ and you get approximately the same number. God’s name is misused a couple of times; Jesus' once.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Alice’s mom brings wine to dinner. Champagne and wine is served at a social reception, and the two couples toast with beer bottles at a picnic. Ralph’s mother-in-law says to him, “You’re on the pipe, aren’t you?” Ed sometimes has a cigarette behind his ear. In one sequence Ralph has a stogie in his mouth. Dodge suggests some sort of drug doping for the racing dog.
Other Negative Elements
Most of Ralph’s scheming involves lying to Alice. “Too much honesty can ruin a relationship,” he says. He also cites the motto of a self-help guru: “If you know you can’t compete, you may have to practice deceit.” Ed physically restrains another bidder at an auction to keep him from running up the bid. A bus company friend of Ralph’s hints that he steals parts from the company. Dodge steals gas by siphoning it from a car, and he forges AKC papers for the greyhound.
Hollywood seems to think it’s endlessly funny to put hip-hop slang into the mouths of elderly white women; here, a woman asks a despondent Ralph, “What’s your poison? Drink? Gambling? Ho’s?” While trying to raise money, Ralph and Ed buy lotto tickets. They pretend to be blind and beg on a street corner. They also lie about raising money for a children’s charity. Outtakes played over the closing credits feature tasteless jokes about mental retardation and Down Syndrome.
“To the moon, Alice!” In the original TV sitcom The Honeymooners, Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Gleason, frequently used that line to threaten violence against his wife, played by Audrey Meadows. In this movie homage, Ralph again promises to send Alice to the moon, but not with his fist—it’s his dreamer’s way of wooing the woman who will become his wife: “Where do you want to go? I'll take you anywhere. I’ll take you to the moon, Alice.”
It’s refreshing that there’s no hint of physical abuse in Ralph and Alice's marriage this time around, but that’s the only uplifting thing about the film. First, it commits the cardinal comedy sin: It’s not funny. Indeed, it’s downright painful in places. Second, what could have been an entertaining story about a man constantly undone by his own scheming is itself undone by a wink-wink approach to lying and cheating as well as some sexual innuendo and profanity.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Cedric the Entertainer as Ralph Kramden; Mike Epps as Ed Norton; Gabrielle Union as Alice Kramden; Regina Hall as Trixie Norton; John Leguizamo as Dodge; Eric Stoltz as William Davis; Jon Polito as Kirby
John Schultz ( )