"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Richie Rich

Somehow I saw the movie RI¢HIE RI¢H when it was released in 1994. I never planned to watch it again, but I did while researching that ’90s comic book movie piece a while back, so what the hell? You guys seemed to like when I did a review of CASPER. Maybe it’s good to beef up the Harvey Comics portion of the archive.

Not particularly popular in its time, and based on concepts from a comic book started in the ’50s, it might not be entirely fair to look at this movie as representative of our attitudes in the ’90s. Still, it says something that Warner Brothers felt this was a story people would want to see, and that it should be presented in this specific way.

I looked up some of the other family movies of ’94, and they include THREE NINJAS KICK BACK, LITTLE BIG LEAGUE, ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD, THE SANTA CLAUSE and THE PAGEMASTER. I haven’t seen any of those and I don’t know how they open, but you can imagine throwing stars, baseballs, footballs, Christmas presents or books dancing around some of those titles when they appear on screen. For RICHIE RICH, the magic of sports or holiday fantasy or reading is replaced by, you know, extreme wealth. So a fantastical Alan Silvestri (BACK TO THE FUTURE, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, SUPER MARIO BROS., AVENGERS: ENDGAME) score plays as a vault opens to reveal the shimmering title.

Richie Rich (Macaulay Culkin, JACOB’S LADDER) is the richest boy in the world. As a baby, his billionaire parents Richard and Regina Rich (Edward Hermann and Christine Ebersole) had him sleep under a mobile of money and asked him things like, “Can you say ‘Wall Street’?… Can you say ‘convertible debenture’?” As a boy he yearns to spend more time with his dad, who he has a machine to tell him the location of, and is sort of raised by his valet Cadbury (Jonathan Hyde, ANACONDA, TITANIC).

Us poors needed to use coupons to buy this movie

I think it’s fair to say that the Richie Rich mythos were never meant to portray the actual rich people who live in the real world. The Rich family lives in preposterous excess, but they also use their bottomless resources (including cutting edge new technologies) to help people, or at least not to screw people over. The movie could be seen as kind of a subtle fuck-you to the 1% because it treats the idea of really nice rich families as a delightful and far-fetched fantasy.

You can definitely take it as a “what if” scenario, an impossible thing that’s fun to imagine, just like Batman, Iron Man or The Shadow. But it’s such a tempting fantasy it colors our culture’s mythology around Silicon Valley guys, Howard Schultz, and whoever that asshole from TV was that was president and tried to pretend he would use his outsider rich guy status to shake up the system and help the little guy but really it was just another scam. I forget the guy’s name. He was a real piece of work though.

Richie is a good kid – he has as a role model “billionaire businessman and philanthropist Richard Rich,” whose project today is to save a tool factory and its 600 jobs. But it still feels a little weird that the requirements of cookie cutter storytelling demand we feel sorry for him. Sure, he has an amusement park in his backyard and a personal McDonalds in his house and a butler who calls in the Vienna Boys Choir to perform for him when he’s sad but what good is all that when the factory worker’s kids don’t want him in their baseball game? He just wants to be a regular kid but he wears a tie and slicks his hair back and has a bodyguard. And you have to understand that these kids, a couple of them wear their baseball hats backwards. One of them with sunglasses! That’s the kinda shit Macaulay Culkin would pull if he was, say, lip syncing the terrible rap in the “Black or White” video, but Richie hasn’t been trained for that kind of thing. So there’s huge tension until later when he figures out to wear a normal jacket with a hoodie under it. Diane (Mariangela Pino), factory worker and mom of baseball kid Gloria (Stephi Lineburg) sees Richie through his helicopter window and senses his ennui and feels sorry for him, officially honoring him with the sympathy of the working class.

I would play the world’s smallest violin for him, but the Rich family actually owns it, along with the world’s largest violin and the world’s most made out of gold and valuable jewels violin.

When the kids do let Richie into the game for a minute and he hits well and Cadbury yells “Yes!” I think it’s supposed to feel triumphant, but we know Richie gets hitting lessons from Reggie Jackson. It’s also implied that he has Arnold Schwarzenegger as a personal trainer (though Claudia Schiffer is subbing today). There are issues of privilege here that are not addressed, is what I’m getting at.

That said, he’s right to not want to hang out with the other heirs to immense fortunes. He goes to a private school for the elite rich, where Ben Stein teaches business as they golf, read the newspaper, have their suits tailored and fax each other notes. These kid actors do a good job of playing little shitstains that you want to see fall into a pile of shit. Which I’m surprised doesn’t literally happen in this movie.

Cadbury invites the baseball kids to the mansion to play with Richie. In fact, he offers to pay them. There’s definitely supposed to be a message about the emptiness of being really, really, really, really, really rich and having everything you could ever want and everything you don’t even want and also more stuff in addition to that if the kids only come over because they’re being paid. But I don’t know, man, they also really love the fantasy of “what if you could just fuckin drive around in dune buggies and jump onto a huge trampoline and eat cheeseburgers and live in a fantasyland because your pal is Richie Rich.”

The kids are supposed to not really get it when they envy him.

Because it’s hard out there for the richest boy in the world. Look how sad he looks. He’s liable to turn into Batman.

But I don’t know. I think most kids would agree with the part about it being cool to, like, have a guy who builds you robot bees and stuff. But money isn’t everything. Even though he does have a dog named after currency and with spots shaped like a symbol for currency and both his first and last names also have symbols for currency in place of letters when the logo is transcribed literally like SE7EN or THE VVITCH.

Anyway, obviously this can’t just be about making friends. What the fuck. Are you stupid? No, you gotta have a snooty villain in a by-the-numbers comedy, and for this one it’s Rich Industries CFO Laurence Van Dough (John Larroquette, THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE), who’s secretly scheming to steal the company from Richie’s parents. Richie’s supposed to be with them on their private jet, the Billion Dollar One, when it crashes in the Bermuda Triangle. Actually it’s supposed to blow up, but they survive by discovering the bomb and throwing it off in time. But mom had let Richie stay home. So after Van Dough takes over the company and closes the tool factory, Richie gets mad and asserts his right to take over. Ain’t no rule says a kid can’t run a corporation.

There is lots of laffs and goofs and montages about how he loudly slurps milkshakes during board meetings and rollerblades around the offices and what not. But by cutting the board’s salary (consider yourself stuck, The Man!) and hiring his baseball friends as his “new research and development team” to taste candy bars he ends up on the cover of a bunch of financial magazines – an outsider genius of King Ralphian proportions.

And then Van Dough frames Cadbury for bombing Billion Dollar One and they have to break out of jail and he falls in love with Gloria’s mom and the climax has the Riches climbing on “Mount Richmore,” their recently commissioned family portrait mountain sculpture and it is revealed that their vault holds things that only have sentimental value and at they end they say “Now our son really is the richest boy in the world” because “He has friends.” The end.

Artist’s rendition of the box office if the movie had had Irona in it

You know who is not in this movie? Irona, the robot maid. She could fly around and lift things and turn into a vacuum and shit. She was actually way cooler than his human friends. He wouldn’t need those dumb-hangers on if he had Irona. That’s definitely the one and only reason why this got crushed by DUMB AND DUMBER, THE SANTA CLAUSE, STREET FIGHTER and DISCLOSURE in its opening weekend and didn’t make back its budget at the box office and Richie’s parents were so ashamed they performed seppuku in front of the Variety head office. LISTEN TO THE FANS. NOT MY RICHIE RICH.

Because this is an old timey comic book character they don’t have as many things specific to 1994 as you might in your average 1994 movie. A rare exception is Gloria’s bedroom. Richie uses her computer to hack into the Rich Industries network (he probly gets computer lessons from Bill Gates) so we get to see that she has posters for the band Candlebox and the R.E.M. album Automatic For the People. No Vienna Boys Choir for her.

I’m not gonna use the word “problematic” – ah shit, I just used it. Anyway I’m not trying to judge movies from another era, but I do like watching movies that I remember being considered acceptable at the time and realizing they would be less likely to make something like that now. One example here is when Richie and Cadbury share in the male bonding ritual of getting Claudia Schiffer to bend over in front of them so they can check out her ass.

Another one is that Richie’s largest friend Pee Wee (Jonathan Hilario, “Phys Ed Dweeb,” ROOKIE OF THE YEAR) is always excited about eating.

They also made Professor Keenbean (Michael McShane, Friar Tuck from ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES) a big guy and I think all of his scenes have a “joke” about ha ha, he loves to eat food, on account of he is fat.

For example, when he gets tied up he still tries to eat a sandwich.

You see, because of fat people. Unfortunately these days, because of the liberals and the political correctness, you’re not allowed to have the great comedy like this that they used to have, the really funny and edgy kind that’s too dangerous, and they’re not willing to compete in the marketplace of ideas, because of the safe spaces.

Director Donald Petrie started as an actor (H.O.T.S.) and then a TV director (MacGyver, L.A. Law) before his movie debut, MYSTIC PIZZA. His other movies, not surprisingly, are stuff like OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, GRUMPY OLD MEN, THE ASSOCIATE, MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, MISS CONGENIALITY, HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS, and TURNER & HOOCH (the tv version). He’s working from a script credited to Neil Tolkin (LICENSE TO DRIVE, JURY DUTY, Magnum P.I.) and Tom S. Parker & Jim Jennewein (STAY TUNED, MAJOR LEAGUE II, THE FLINTSTONES, GETTING EVEN WITH DAD). So this is pretty much an elite squad of the greatest comedy minds of– you know what, I’m not gonna say anything mean. But these are the kind of people who come up with extended comedy bits like “Cadbury is this uptight British guy but then he has to wear the clothes of a biker guy in jail, can you believe it?”

So anyway, I’ve seen this one twice now. You never know where life will take you.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 at 9:49 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Family, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

25 Responses to “Richie Rich”

  1. BETTER THAN MYSTERY MEN!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

  2. A R.E.M Automatic For the People poster is still acceptable decor tho? It’s a classic album.

  3. That robot maid was apparently in the Netflix show, played by a sexy young woman, with Richie making suggestive comments towards her, according to the trailer from a few years ago. (It was more of a Disney Channel style “Kids yell the punchlines” sitcom, than a HOUSE OF CARDS “Golden age of TV” affair. Never saw it, though. Hard to believe, but I have standards too.)

  4. Even the comic book is basically just Archie but for baby Patrick Bateman, so you add Macaulay Culkin at absolute peak insufferability and you’ve got a real weird stew cooking up.

  5. Can you review BLANK CHECK? I suspect it’s pretty appalling.

  6. renfield- funny you mention BLANK CHECK, that was the first thing I thought of too. I know I saw them both several times as a kid, but BLANK CHECK is definitely the one I remember more, if only because the premise is somehow even less believable than RICHIE RICH.

  7. Had to google BLANK CHECK. I know this movie, but the German title is MAC MILLIONAIRE.

  8. “I think Caspar is the ghost of Richie Rich”

    Clip from: Three Men and a Comic Book

    I think it's sad that you equate friendliness with wimpiness,
    and I hope it'll keep you from ever achieving true popularity.
    You know what I think ? I think Casper's the ghost of Richie Rich.
    Hey, they do look alike.
    I wonder how Richie died.
    Perhaps he realized how hollow the pursuit of money is and took his own life.

  9. “Not particularly popular in its time, and based on concepts from a comic book started in the ’50s,”

    Aren’t most of the bigger comic books from, like, the Great Depression? I mean, Captain America famously was drawn punching Hitler back when Hitler was alive.

  10. Kaplan- Superman debuted in 1938 and most of the best-known DC characters were created between then and the mid-‘50s, while most of the Marvel heroes hitting the box office now were created after 1961, when the Fantastic Four debuted. The biggest exception there is, as you note, Captain America, who debuted in 1941 back when Marvel Comics was called Timely Comics. The worst of the Great Depression was past by that point, and the character of Richie Rich wasn’t created until 1953.

  11. CJ, nothing is better than MYSTERY MEN. Nothing!

  12. Oh, several things are. But not RICHIE RICH!

  13. James Rebhorn played the dad in Blank Check. I loved James Rebhorn.

  14. I hate to think what Rich might get up to with Irona when he becomes a teenager.

    Also, funnily enough this is one of the first movies I can remember seeing in theaters (albeit only vaguely), I could be wrong, but wasn’t this hyped as Mack’s final children’s movie before he planned on taking a break from acting or even possibly retiring?

  15. onthewall2983

    May 9th, 2019 at 6:53 am

    The top thing on the IMDB trivia about this states that at the time of filming, Culkin was actually the richest kid in the world.

    Griff: I don’t think it was ever announced as such, at least I don’t remember it that way. This came out after GETTING EVEN WITH DAD, which flopped and maybe studios were becoming wary of him in tandem with a growing disillusionment he had with the business.

    This might have been the last movie I saw in a theater with my family as a whole.

  16. My favorite thing about Blank Check is that the kid only gets a million bucks but somehow buys a castle and a water slide and a bunch of other stuff that a million bucks wouldn’t even cover the down payment on.

  17. grimgrinningchris

    May 9th, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I do know that in order to agree to do this movie, him and his people (parents, I guess) demanded that he be able to do THE GOOD SON… Like “okay, yeah, I will do this one more big budget, high concept kids movie… but only if you let me play a psychopath”

  18. Oh also one of the bad guys in BLANK CHECK is Tone Loc, so…it’s got that going for it.

  19. Wow between Miguel Ferrer, Ton Loc and James Rebhorn, Rebhorn is the Dad. I guess he is the cuddliest of those character actors.

    Michael Lerner is villain adjacent too, right?

  20. grimgrinningchris: That might have been for something else since RICHIE RICH was a WB film and GOOD SON was with Fox.

    Honestly thought the kid from BLANK CHECK was dead until I saw his IMDB and he just appears to have grown up to be a troubled guy. I can’t think of anyone more in showbusiness who has it rough than kid stars who become troubled adults.

    Only memory I have is my parents both incidentally renting copies as birthday presents for my brother.

  21. grimgrinningchris

    May 10th, 2019 at 5:23 pm


    Most of what Culkin was doing at the height of his career was through Fox in one way or another… from the Home Alones to The PageMaster to Getting Even With Dad… But My Girl is another outlier.

    Due to that, I would imagine there was likely a contract with Fox of some sort that would mean anything outside of Fox would have to be finessed.

    It is still the same timeframe, so it is entirely possible that it was more a scheduling thing though… like “Yes, I will do Richie Rich, but you have to hold the shooting schedule til I am done terrorizing Frodo if you really want me”

    There was definitely SOME sort of deal made between RR and TGS specifically where him doing the former was dependent on his ability to do the latter. I remember there being EW and Entertainment Tonight stories about it at the time.

  22. But Casper is totally Richie Rich’s ghost, right? You’re all on board with this and I’m not alone in this theory, yeah?

  23. Wow, someone else posted about the Richie/Casper connection. I really thought I was the only one who saw that and created an elaborate, horrifically sad head cannon based upon the similarity of design.

  24. The SIMPSONS reference is probably how a lot of us connected the dots. Funnily enough it wasn’t that long after this came out that Universal released a CASPER movie, which Vern reviewed a few years ago.

    As ridiculous as this and BLANK CHECK were they don’t hold a candle to THE TOY.

  25. And neither one touches TOYS!

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