Suckered into seeing this film because my passing glances to several reviews were consumed with Hitchcock this and that, I almost feel guilty for writing a review that makes the comparison. It was at first puzzling to try and make the connections - out of the film's entirety there may be a total of two seconds of suspense, and so without Hitch's bravura display of taught pacing and rigorous setups, I was left to turn my attention to the scattered, often tenuous similarities in theme between Harry and some of Hitch's work.
Strangers on a Train is the film most likely presumed to be Harry's antecedent, but where Hitch confidently moves things along, setting up the film's theme of duality with the visual motifs that establish this pattern, Harry gives us no reason to understand why the antagonist is motivated to act as he does, and how, if at all, his behavior is related to (rather than just intersecting with) the lives of the other characters in the film. It is often that we get to see the antagonist act, and the rest of the cast fail to react - but as with the rest of the film's disjointed and listless series of plot "incidents," I suppose we're not supposed to be looking for something other than the occasional emotional ribbing.
It is unfortunate, too, that as with Strangers, in With a Friend Like Harry, the antagonist is the most compelling character, and yet here he is all smoke and no fire. And without the anchor of the protagonist/antagonist dichotomy on which to steady the rest of the film, the viewer is left to pre-occupy themselves searching to be consumed by the sort of details and nuance that save formally structured films lacking in a central narrative thrust.
This isn't to say that there was nothing enjoyable about the film, only that the most enjoyable moments (often humorous) were often brushed aside in favor of moving the story inexorably to the next scene. Where a Hitch film like Strangers on a Train, with the homosexual tension between the protagonist and antagonist, say, utilizes subtext to keep the momentum of story advancing, and provide a greater sense of motivation for the respective characters' actions, with Harry hints of subtext are buoyed to the surface just long enough only to tickle the viewer's thoughts.
Instead of paying in money and time for this, a film with high aspirations that fails miserably, I'd suggest a film which succeeds at being modest -- stay in and rent Throw Momma From a Train...
Varietal: Rustic, Spicy Red
Vintner: Dominik Moll