MAX DUGAN RETURNS (1983) Review, A Cinema Static Classic Reflection


Max Dugan Returns is a cute bit of a comedy about a mother, her son, her derelict criminal of a father and a boyfriend who is a cop. How tangled of a web can you weave out of that?

Max Dugan Returns was written by Neil Simon and directed by Herbert Ross. The cast included Marsha Mason (the mom), Matthew Broderick (the son), Donald Sutherland (mom's boyfriend and a cop) and mom's dad, Max Dugan (Jason Robards), mom's criminal father who shows up after many years of being an MIA father.

What could go wrong?

We start the film watching Nora's (mom) and Michael's (son) financially distressed lives. It's a bit depressing, but as the first act develops, we also see Nora meet Detective Brian Costello (Sutherland) as he shows up to take notes about her (first) stolen car.

The beginning of their relationship is quirky cute. But after Nora meets her boyfriend cop, she gets a mysterious call in the middle of the night from a stranger, whom, after being convinced to meet him, she learns is her father, Max Dugan.

He only has so long to live, but he wants to get to know his grandson, Michael. But Max has a bit of a history with the law and some Las Vegas organized crime folks who might want their money back that he's toting around in a briefcase!


All in all, the film is a quirky fun kind of comedic tone that reminds me of a good Cary Grant film, with quick snappy conversation.

[Nora: How do I know you have six months to live?
Max: We could sit here and wait.]

[Max Dugan: The only thing I ever learned in jail was that it was a terrific place to stay out of.]

The film is written by Neil Simon, the man who brought such titles as Your Show of Shows, The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park and so many more titles. His career started around 1948 when he wrote an episode of The Arrow Show.

After Max Dugan Returns, he went on to crank out The New Odd Couple, The Slugger's Wife, Brighton Beach Memoirs and more.

Director Herbert Ross passed away in 2001, but seemed to have a fulfilling career. After this film, he directed Footloose, Steel Magnolias, The Goodbye Girl and one of his last films was Boys on the Side.

This film marks only one of three films that Donald Sutherland and his son, Keifer Sutherland appear in together. He's in a very quick scene at the beginning of the movie when Nora drops off Michael at school. Look for the kid in the grey sweater.

Matthew Broderick's father passed away while he was filming this movie.

This was the last film that Marsha Mason and Neil Simon worked on together, prior to their divorce.

Today Mason can be seen in the TV series, The Middle.

Robards passed away in 2000 and was one of my favorite actors who appeared in so many films. He has 131 acting credits to his name. Jason had three films come out in 1983. This one, Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Day After.

Donald Sutherland needs no introduction. He has 183 acting credits to his name and is presently in production of the TV series, Ice. You may have undoubtedly caught him in The Hunger Games as President Snow.

This was the dawn of Broderick's film career, where he went on to have WarGames come out the same year as this film, followed by one of my all-time favorite films, Ladyhawke. He later went on to star in Ferris Bueller's Day Off that came out three years later in 1986. He has 67 acting credits to his name, with Look Away being his latest film, now in post-production.

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Max Dugan Returns was a fun flick that had me laughing at times, while enjoying the smart banter that took place throughout the film.

If you get a chance to see it or on a lark and take my word for it, dig it up on cable or rent it. If you are a fan of any of this cast, you will get a kick out of seeing this talent looking so young!

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  1. One of my all time favorites for casual entertainment. Easy to watch. Not too deep and a little silly.


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