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Checking Out (1989)

R | | Comedy | 21 April 1989 (USA)
A successful family man, who works for an airline, becomes consumed by fear of death after his colleague and best friend dies in front of him from heart attack while telling the setup for the joke: "Why don't Italians like barbecues?"


David Leland


Joe Eszterhas


Cast overview, first billed only:
Jeff Daniels ... Ray Macklin
Melanie Mayron ... Jenny Macklin
Michael Tucker ... Harry Lardner
Kathleen York ... Diana
Ann Magnuson ... Connie Hagen
Allan Havey ... Pat Hagen
Jo Harvey Allen ... Barbara
Ian Wolfe ... Mr. D'Amato
Billy Beck ... Father Carmody
Trudy Dochterman Trudy Dochterman ... Val (as Trudi Dochtermann)
John Durbin ... Spencer Gillinger
Adelle Lutz ... Dr. Helmsley
Felton Perry ... Dr. Duffin
Allan Rich ... Dr. Haskell
Danton Stone ... Dr. Wolfe
Learn more

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Ray is a man obsessed with his own mortality. When Ray's best friend dies of a heart attack, Ray is convinced that all of his aches and pains are an indication of his own imminent death. His life turns into a slapstick farce of health-crazed anxiety and hypochondria, until he finally learns that all he has to fear is fear itself. Written by Witrack

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A funny look at "take two aspirin and call me in the morning." See more »




R | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


Prior to the film being shot, Director David Leland assured Joe Eszterhas that he would not change Eszterhas' script in any way. When Eszterhas saw a rough cut of the film, he was angry to discover that new subplots and characters not in the original script had been introduced. Eszterhas initially demanded that his name be taken off the film, but when Leland removed most of what Eszterhas was objecting to, the screenwriter allowed his name to be put back on. See more »


Featured in An Accidental Studio (2019) See more »


Composed by Roy Orbison & Joe Melson
Used by permission of Acuff-Rose/Opryland Music Ltd.
Performed by Roy Orbison
Under license from CBS Special Products, a service of CBS Records, Inc.
See more »

User Reviews

Leave against medical advice
20 April 2014 | by StevePulaskiSee all my reviews

When a film's sole positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes states little other praise outside of the film being "constantly watchable," you know you have something on your hands. David Leland's Checking Out is a tiresome drag of a film, one with little comedy but a whole lot of strange, over-the-top circumstances that result in little else besides mounting annoyance and tedium. Unless you ever wanted to see the most annoying party-guest or your most insufferable acquaintance personified in film, there is little here for you to see.

The film stars Jeff Daniels as Ray Macklin, who always seemingly been obsessed with his own mortality, believing at times he'll never die and continue to live on in life. What a desirable bout of optimism this guy has. Anyway, when his close friend suddenly drops dead of a heart attack at a friendly barbecue, Ray is certain that every ache, pain, or feeling of discomfort that he experiences from there on out is a lethal sign that his demise is coming. Ray becomes an oppressive hypochondriac, fretting over small little instances and alienating everyone around him.

Does this sound like the kind of person you want to watch for ninety-one minutes? Would you want to live with this very same person? If you said no, then why would you want to endure a film with him in it? It is worth noting that Checking Out did have some potential for observations on existential and mortality dilemmas, but found ways to squander them in unfortunately lame attempts to brew humor out of one of the most irritating characters in recent memory. Daniels can be very funny, and when put alongside somebody (most notably Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber), uses verbal banter and conversational wit to even out some of the less funny physical/sight gags thrown in the mix. With Checking Out, there's no verbal banter nor conversational wit. There's simply situational humor that is forgotten as quickly as it was introduced.

Consider the scene where Ray wakes up, bathed in sweat and is so paranoid about dying he leaps out the window on to his family station wagon. This activates a blaring car alarm and causes the attention of his neighbors, who have to hear him panic and scream about him in the process of dying. Spare me, spare him, spare us.

The running gag in Checking Out is that Ray's friend, whose death started all this madness, died in the middle of telling a joke, with the punchline remaining a mystery. Ray's friend asks Ray and a crowded group of people, "why don't Italians like barbeques," before croaking on the spot. Ray can't get this out of his head, and resorts to asking people and reading several Italian joke books in order to find the punchline to this rather stale joke, the way I see it. If anything, Checking Out provides a solid case study on how difficult it was to obtain information, such as punchlines, before the creation and the rise of the internet. Things like that only help an old movie the more they age.

Checking Out, in short, is tedious and shockingly unfunny, given its talented director David Leland and its more-than-capable leading man Jeff Daniels. With Blu-Ray commanding more and more of the market for home media, Checking Out among other comedies from yesteryear such as Used Cars and Wild at Heart, have been getting releases on the platform in order to find ways to resurface back in the public or simply stay up-to-date with the changing home media platforms. Even with the most basic justification for releasing old, forgotten films on Blu-Ray, Checking Out is lucky it got its treatment.

Starring: Jeff Daniels, Melanie Mayron, and Michael Tucker. Directed by: David Leland.

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Official Sites:

Handmade Films website





Release Date:

21 April 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Checking Out See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$12,730, 23 April 1989

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

HandMade Films See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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