Burglar (1987)

5.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 5/10

Fun to see the bad '80s looks

Story isn't funny enough to be a comedy, have enough action to be an action movie, or mystery to be a mystery

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Burglar

Studio:  Nelvana Limited

Genre(s):  Comedy/Action/Adventure/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  March 20, 1987

MPAA Rating:  R


You know, you look like that guy from the Police Academy movies…

Bernie Rhodenbarr (Whoopi Goldberg) is a small time thief with a big problem.  While trying to pay off a crooked ex-cop named Ray Kirschman (G. W. Bailey), she takes a job with a dentist named Cynthia Sheldrake (Lesley Ann Warren) who hires her to steal jewelry taken by her husband in a divorce.  While in the house, Cynthia’s ex-husband is murdered…leaving the police looking for Bernie.  Now, Bernie must find the real killer and clear her name before she is taken in.

Directed by Hugh Wilson, Burglar was a comedy based on the 1978 novel The Burglar in the Closet by Lawrence Block as part of his Burglar series with a script adapted by screenwriter and comic book author Jeph Loeb.  The movie was generally panned by critics.


I’m ready to shoot my old lady scenes for The Color Purple!

The film allegedly went through a number of development changes in the course of making it to the screen.  Originally it was planned to be a Bruce Willis project with Whoopi Goldberg playing the dog-washer friend.  Willis dropped out and Whoopi replaced him with Bobcat Goldthwait as the dog washer.

The script for Burglar unfortunately isn’t that good.  Though promoted as an action-comedy, the movie is pretty light on action.  Unlike movies like Lethal Weapon (which was released earlier the same month) or Die Hard, the film needed to be a bit more of a thriller or mystery to make it enjoyable.  The mystery was secondary and underplayed here when it should have been the first layer.  I do find it interesting how it is tapped danced around at the end in regards to James Handy’s character’s sexuality in a way that would not be the approach today.

burglar-1987-movie-review-bernie-rhodenbarr-carl-hefler-bar-scene-80s-smoking-whoopi goldberg-bobcat-goldthwait

Wait…you can smoke in bars?!?! The ’80s were crazy!!!

The movie tries to really be a vehicle for Whoopi…and fails.  She really tries to hold the movie together but the script isn’t there for her.  Bob Goldthwait just does his stand-up, and G.W. is just the same character he always is.  The movie also features an early appearance by John Goodman as one of the police officers trying to bring Bernice in.

The movie is set in the beautiful city of San Francisco…and barely uses it.  The movie really should have utilized the location more since the script was rather weak.  I don’t believe that a city should be a character in the movie if it isn’t really part of the plot, but if the plot is weak, location can help.  The only fun is watching the retro 1980’s look of everything.

Burglar is typical ’80s comedy fodder.  In that sense, it is a nice throwback to simpler stories and scripts.  Unlike a modern comedy laced with clever dialogue and overloaded with sarcasm, Burglar is what it is…an average comedy action too light on action, comedy, or even mystery.


Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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