Total Recall: Danny DeVito's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Lorax star.
Danny DeVito has been in a pair of long-running sitcoms, produced and directed some major hit movies, and turned in notable cameos in some of the most critically adored films of all time (including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Terms of Endearment) -- and all those achievements don't even include most of his filmography, which expands this week to include his turn as the grumpy title character in The Lorax. Clearly, it's high time that we paid him tribute, and that's exactly why we decided to (ahem) DeVote this list to the irascible, irrepressible Mr. DeVito. It's time for Total Recall!
10. Tin Men
After leaving the city for The Natural and Young Sherlock Holmes, Diner director Barry Levinson returned to Baltimore with 1987's Tin Men, a downbeat comedy about a pair of aluminum siding salesmen (DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss) who begin a bitter, decades-long rivalry after (literally) bumping into each other during a disastrous first meeting in the 1940s. Boasting fine period detail, a terrific cast that also included Barbara Hershey, John Mahoney, and Bruno Kirby, and soundtrack work from the Fine Young Cannibals, Tin Men impressed critics like Luke Y. Thompson of New Times, who called it "Primo Levinson" and wrote, "DeVito's rarely been more human, and Dreyfuss is at his funniest."
Initially reluctant to film a Batman sequel, Tim Burton was eventually persuaded to return to Gotham after wresting complete creative control from Warner Bros. The result was 1992's Batman Returns, a casting dream that found Batman (Michael Keaton, donning the cowl for the final time) facing off against Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer, resplendent in leather) and the Penguin (a scenery-chewing DeVito). Though some critics (and parents) felt the film was too dark, most reviews were positive; in fact, before Christopher Nolan came along with Batman Begins, Batman Returns was the best-reviewed film in the franchise, something Desson Thompson of the Washington Post attributed to the fact that it "comes closer than ever to Bob Kane's dark, original strip, which began in 1939."
DeVito and his Romancing the Stone castmates Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner teamed up for the third time in this pitch-black comedy about a wealthy married couple (Douglas and Turner) whose disintegrating marriage becomes a desperate, violent squabble over their shared possessions. Doing double duty as director and co-star, DeVito extended his directorial hot streak (begun with 1987's Throw Momma from the Train), while Douglas and Turner took the love/hate banter they perfected during Stone and Jewel of the Nile and subtracted the love, fueling one of the most entertainingly venomous divorces in cinematic history. As Rob Vaux of the Flipside Movie Emporium put it, "For anyone who ever spent Valentine's Day alone with a bottle of scotch, for anyone who ever watched the love of their life go stomping out the door, for anyone who ever gazed in hatred at the happy couple spooning in public? This is the movie for you."
John Grisham has seen plenty of his books turned into movies, but in 2004, he told Entertainment Weekly that The Rainmaker was the best. It's easy to understand why: with Francis Ford Coppola behind the cameras and an ace cast that included Matt Damon, Mickey Rourke, Jon Voight, and DeVito, it'd be hard to ask for a more skillfully assembled adaptation of the story of an idealistic young lawyer (Damon) who teams up with a resourceful paralegal (DeVito) to bring down an unscrupulous health insurance company. Although it failed to outgross many of them, it was, as Empire's Ian Nathan argued, "A stronger bet than the previous 35 or however many Grisham movies before it."
Before he was the Lorax, DeVito lent his pipes to Disney's Hercules, appearing as the voice of the pugnacious satyr tasked with toughening up the titular Olympian (Tate Donovan) and assisting him in his quest to prove his worth as a true hero. Crafty and incorrigible, Phil gave DeVito the opportunity to walk away with many of the movie's best lines -- and entertained critics like Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote, "Light on its feet and continually amusing, this free-spirited show-biz version of Greek mythology ranks with the best of modern Disney animation."