Touchstone and Beyond: A History of Disney’s “Off Beat”

This week a look back at the Judge Reinhold 1986 comedy Off Beat. I have never heard of this film and can’t wait to check it out.

The Plot

Joe Gower is wasting his life away in the New York Public Library fetching books and watching the world pass by. Dumped by his girlfriend and loathing his job an unexpected opportunity arises that will lift his spirits.

When his good friend Abe Washington, a cop, asks him to impersonate him at a charity dance production, Joe has a chance to change his life. From the first moment at rehearsals, Joe rubs tough guy cop Pete Peterson, the wrong way, but makes a positive impact on a fellow officer named Rachel Wareham.

Selected to participate in this charity event, Joe must continue to pretend to be Abe, while Abe must try and hide what is happening from his superiors. A relationship with Rachel blooms and Joe must continue to lie.

Soon Joe can’t take the lies anymore and tells Rachel the truth. While dressed in his uniform, Joe gets caught in a hostage situation at a bank. If he can survive the bank robbers, he has one more dangerous assignment. To perform in front of a sellout crowd and mend his burgeoning relationship with Rachel.

The Good

Judge Reinhold is funny. Joe Gower is not the strongest character, but he is likable and amiable to the audience. We want to see Gower succeed, and part of that reason is that Reinhold makes us like him. I have yet to see a movie where I didn’t like Judge Reinhold’s performance.

Joe Mantegna plays the tough guy cop Peterson. He does a great job at being the foil to Reinhold’s hapless Gower. Peterson is the opposite in every way, and Joe Mantegna shows this from the first moment of screen time.

The film is not a satirical or farcical look at policing. It’s really a nice romantic comedy that is set in the world of law enforcement.

The Bad and the Ugly

Pete Peterson is an awful person, and when we first meet him in the elevator with Rachel, he is a creep. This guy has predatory behavior on display, and seems like a criminal, not a cop. He is not a likable character no matter how well Mantegna plays him.

Beyond the Film Facts

  • Judge Reinhold parlayed his success from 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop to help him land the lead role.
  • The film’s screenwriter, Mark Medoff, has a cameo as Sergeant Tegher.
  • The scenes at the New York Public Library were all shot after hours.
  • This is the last film that choreographer Jacques D’amboise would act in.
  • Reinhold spent two weeks learning how to roller skate before the movie began production.
  • Off Beat joins a string of 1980’s comedies that takes a sillier look at police work.
  • Harvey Keitel and Victor Argo appear as the bank robberies near the end of the film. This is one of twelve movies that they appear in together.
  • The film earned half of its total box office gross on opening weekend.
  • The movie was a critical and commercial failure.
  • Fred Gwynne appears as the police commissioner.
  • The cop named Harry is played by James Tolkan who will forever be remembered for his role as the principal in Back to the Future.
  • John Turturro and Penn Jillette also have roles in the film.
  • While the film may have failed at the box office, critic Roger Ebert gave it 3 ½ stars out of 4.
  • Reinhold blames the marketing of the film for its box office failure.

The Streamy Award

{The following four categories are based on a Film Reel scale.

1 Reel-Bored and Killing Time, 2 Reels-When You Have Some Time, 3 Reels-Make Some Time, 4 Reels-Big Screen Event}

I knew nothing about this film when I started watching it, and I was pleasantly surprised by how funny and charming Judge Reinhold made the movie. His performance as Joe Gower is unique, because in today’s cinema, we would never see a big screen film like this.

It would be easy to confuse this film for many of the similar themed cop related films of the 1980s, (This is no Police Academy.) but the fact is that Off Beat is dynamic in its execution, loaded with stars, and has a great lead in Judge Reinhold.

Off Beat gets a 3 Reels rating. It’s funny, and sometimes that’s all a film needs to be.

Cast and Crew

  • Judge Reinhold as Joe Gower
  • Joe Mantegna as Pete Peterson
  • Meg Tilly as Rachel Wareham
  • Cleavant Derricks as Abe Washington

Directed by Michael Dinner

Produced by Touchstone Films (Pictures) / Silver Screen Partners II

Release Date: April 11, 1986

Budget: $10 million

Box Office Gross

Domestic: $4,842,778

Coming Soon

Next week, a look back at Ridley Scott and Demi Moore’s G.I. Jane.

Bill Gowsell
Bill Gowsell has loved all things Disney since his first family trip to Walt Disney World in 1984. Since he began writing for Laughing Place in 2014, Bill has specialized in covering the Rick Riordan literary universe, a retrospective of the Touchstone Pictures movie library, and a variety of other Disney related topics. When he is not spending time with his family, Bill can be found at the bottom of a lake . . . scuba diving