BootLeg Betty

Danny DeVito: Rotten Tomatoes Rates His Work (Thanks Jill)

Rotten Tomatoes
Total Recall: Danny DeVito‘s Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Lorax star.
by Jeff Giles | Thursday, Mar. 01 2012

86%

5. Romancing the Stone
Nobody plays “gleefully unscrupulous” quite like Danny DeVito, and he was given free rein with Robert Zemeckis‘ Romancing the Stone, which found him playing a shady antique smuggler whose bumbling plot to get his hands on a treasure map put him at odds with a romance novelist (Kathleen Turner), a dashing explorer (Michael Douglas), and a murderous Colombian colonel (Manuel Ojeda). Loads of swashbuckling fun in a perfectly 1980s way, Stone raised more than $86 million at the box office, spawned a sequel, and won the admiration of critics like Tim Brayton of Antagony & Ecstasy, who called it “A grand example of the rarest combination of adventure, humor, and sexual chemistry which all crackle along with abandon.”

86%

4. Get Shorty
DeVito strapped on his producer’s hat for Get Shorty, a $115 million adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel about a loan shark (John Travolta) who dreams of leaving the business and turning his life story into a hit film for a big-time Hollywood star (DeVito). Sharp, funny, and stocked with an impeccable array of talented actors, including Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, and Dennis Farina, Shorty entertained critics and audiences alike — including Newsweek’s David Ansen, who pointed out, “Hollywood has been in love with mobsters since the beginning of movies. But the other side of the equation has seldom been considered. That is, until now.” (Mister D: And let’s not forget Miss M’s brilliant cameo)

90%

3. Matilda
For his first directorial effort since 1992’s Hoffa, DeVito did something altogether different: an adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel Matilda, about a bright young girl (Mara Wilson) with loathsome parents (played by DeVito and Rhea Perlman) and a budding set of telekinetic abilities. Dahl’s flair for dark storytelling was a perfect fit for DeVito’s sensibilities, and the result was a modest hit greeted by appreciative reviews from critics like Rob Thomas of Madison’s Capital Times, who wrote, “DeVito gleefully preserves Dahl’s dark comic tone, which should delight both kids and parents.”

92%

2. Ruthless People
A 1980s spin on O. Henry’s Ransom of Red Chief courtesy of the Zucker/Abrams/Zucker laugh factory, Ruthless People gave DeVito one of his most marvelously grotesque roles: Sam Stone, the millionaire fashion magnate who’s planning to murder his equally off-putting wife (Bette Midler) when she’s kidnapped by a vengeful fashion designer (Helen Slater) and her doltish boyfriend (Judge Reinhold). Seeing an opportunity to have his dirty work done for him, Stone cheerfully neglects to pay the ransom, setting in motion a chain of hateful behavior. “DeVito is the mainspring of Ruthless People, the engine of murderous intensity right at the center,” observed Roger Ebert. “His passion is so palpable that it adds weight to all the other performances in the movie.”

99%

1. L.A. Confidential
Danny DeVito almost certainly isn’t the first actor that comes to mind when you think of L.A. Confidential — that honor most likely goes to Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, or Kim Basinger — but his character, publishing sleazemonger Sid Hudgens, was still crucial to the story, setting in motion some key moments in the storyline and serving as the film’s narrator. And while this might not be the definitive performance in DeVito’s career, it does illustrate his gift for choosing the right script; as Variety’s Todd McCarthy wrote, this Best Picture nominee is “An irresistible treat with enough narrative twists and memorable characters for a half-dozen films.”

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