Dan Aykroyd has made some amazing flicks in his career (Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters, heck, Driving Miss Daisy!), but he also flamed out with a few notable misfires (Caddyshack 2 … and don't get me started on Nothing But Trouble). So where does 1988's The Couch Trip fit in?
Released Jan. 15, 1988, The Couch Trip had an incredible supporting cast for Aykroyd: Walter Matthau, Charles Grodin and Donna Dixon. And yet the movie – where Dan stars as manipulative mental patient who escapes from incarceration by posing as his own psychiatrist – is rarely name-checked among '80s classics.
To be honest, 30 years later, the best thing you can say about The Couch Trip is that – like another Aykroyd mixed-bag Spies Like Us – it underachieves. Matthau and Dixon are two-dimensional, Grodin sadly disappears for most of the flick and Aykroyd is left holding the bucket alone.
Is it because the plot is too far-fetched? Remember that it all happens when a famed radio psychiatrist cracks up and needs a last-minute stand-in so he can take a much-needed break. Or is it, as one reviewer said, this movie – like many would-be classics of its time – couldn't stick a landing in the third act?
"I believe that to be really good, a movie like this has to depend almost entirely on the personalities of its characters and the actors who play them. The humor comes from the behavior, not the details of the plot – out of the moment, out of carefully observed quirks of human nature," the late Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert wrote. "The best moments in The Couch Trip do exactly that, but there are not enough of them, and the ending is a mindless and meaningless action sequence…"
Still, I think a spending an afternoon with The Couch Trip is time well-spent. I saw it for the first time while at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The crowd got a huge laugh when the psychiatrist's weak credentials are punctuated by the fact he graduated from – you guessed it – Florida State University.
Here are five things you probably didn't know about The Couch Trip on its 30th anniversary:
1. The prison number Aykroyd's character has (7474505B) is the same as Jake's in The Blues Brothers and Louis Winthorpe's in Trading Places.
2. Aykroyd and Dixon were married at the time of filming. They also appear together in Spies Like Us, Doctor Detroit, Exit to Eden and Twilight Zone: The Movie.
3. Chevy Chase appears in a cameo as a TV commercial actor who is comforted to see that his son own condoms. He and Akyroyd would work together in the disastrous Caddyshack II (also from 1988) and the unwatchable Nothing But Trouble (1991).
4. The Couch Trip combined two popular themes in late '80s movies: radio (Radio Days, Talk Radio, Good Morning Vietnam) and the Beverly Hills setting (Beverly Hills Cop, Troop Beverly Hills, Down and Out in Beverly Hills).
5. The movie ends with the same music (The Marriage of Figaro) that begins the far-superior Aykroyd movie Trading Places.