One of the many reasons Mel Brooks (who is not associated in any way, shape or form with this film) is a genius is because of something he was smart enough to ask for and get. Remember that and we’ll revisit that fact and where the original title came from, after we look at Thin Ice.
The title could very well be a metaphor for the life of Mickey Prohaska (Greg Kinnear), a Kenosha based insurance salesman, who we find at a convention of insurance agents where he’s leading a seminar on how to strike up conversations with potential clients. That his best line is apparently the time-tested “Do you happen to have the time” speaks volumes about his abilities. Hoping to sell enough policies to win a trip to his company’s anniversary retreat in Aruba, he decides to hire a go-getter who was at his seminar by the name of Bob (David Harbour) who was about to accept a job with one of Mickey’s competitors who happens to out-do Mickey by a wide margin.
Mickey is estranged from his wife (Lea Thompson) and owes money to her son’s college fund which he took without permission and he is desperate to reconcile with her. He’s also deeply in debt, although he’s driving a very nice car that he clearly can’t afford. Hiring Bob turns out to have almost instant dividends, as Bob has found a number of new clients. They include Gorvy Hauer (Alan Arkin) who lives well out of town, is a retired farmer and while none of his houseful of knick-knacks or the house itself are particularly valuable, succumbs to Mickey’s salesmanship and buys a homeowner’s policy.
Turns out though that Gorvy does own something valuable. An old violin that has been appraised by an expert (Bob Balaban) for $25,000 and Mickey decides that he needs the money more than Gorvy, so he is going to steal and sell the violin. The problem is that good old Bob has pointed out to Gorvy that if he were to purchase an alarm system for his house, the premiums would be lowered. It just so happens that as Gorvy is about to go visit his sister (she’s very ill), the locksmith (Billy Crudup) shows up to finish the installation. So Mickey can’t get back into Gorvy’s house to take the violin (he’s rigged a not too clever substitute to leave in its place) without the help of Randy (Crudup).
What happens from the point where Randy agrees to open the house to Mickey until the climax can’t be told without spoiling the entire movie. It’s a fun ride and if Tailslate were to have half-ratings, this would go up to 2.5 popcorns because of the twists and turns that follow. They are the best part of the movie.
At the end though, the audience is given a look back at the events they’ve just seen, and what they think they saw may well not be what was actually going on. This adds to the disjointed feel of the picture and the explanation for this may well be found in a lettter that director/writer Jill Sprecher did not intend the audience to see what they actually saw. The film she delivered was cut by some 20 odd minutes, with things she intended to be in the film removed, and things she intended to be removed re-inserted. I would be very curious to see her original edit and suspect it would be much more enjoyable to view.
Now let’s go back to one of the many things that made Mel Brooks such a genius. One of them was that he was smart enough to ensure that when he made movies like Blazing Saddles, he had the privilege of the final cut. So when studio executives wanted things removed, their wishes were ignored. As a result, the brilliance of his vision was delivered intact to the audience. That clearly didn’t happen with Thin Ice.
Oh, that original title. I decided I can’t tell you what it means in this context. But it will become clear if you choose to see the movie, I promise.