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Three Fugitives Review

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★★★★★

Climbing out of the same cot as Three Men And A Baby, this could more properly be called Two Men And A Tyke, presenting a similar mix of good-natured guys, cute kiddie crises and general wholesomeness. Nolte is a 14-times convicted bank robber who, on his first day out of jail, makes the mistake of walking into his local downtown branch just before Short, the world’s most incompetent stick-up artist, makes with a gun and threats. Bungling the robbery, Short makes his escape by taking Nolte hostage – only the police think it’s the other way around.

A lot of chasing, cursing and collar grabbing ensues with Nolte attempting and failing at every turn to get rid of his gormless companion (‘Asshole’ he calls him affectionately) and establish his innocence. Then there’s Short’s little girl (Doroff) who strangely hasn’t spoken since Mommy died. The little girl likes Nolte and ever so surprisingly soon reveals her tonsils. ‘Don’t go’ she says, so he doesn’t and from then on it’s a case of mismatched pals comically against the world.

Given such a cloying and utterly predictable plot, it's surprising that Three Fugitives works as well as it does. Nolte, all big shoulders and bashfulness shows a pleasant self-deprecating talent and copes very well with the array of humiliations ranged against him: Short shoots him in the leg, medical treatment comes from a vet who treats him literally like a dog and to cap it all the police chief calls him Rover. Always just on the right side of sickly, midway through things become very seriously contrived with the old ‘man-in-woman’s clothes’ routine, but there’s a solid ration of laughs and Short’s overheated antics are only occasionally tiresome. It could have been worse. Much worse.