A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Everyone in Verplanck, N.Y., drives a Yugo. An older Yugo, since the car hasn't been manufactured since its country went out of business. We learn that Verplanck was selected as a test market when the Yugo was being introduced to the United States. That explains why everyone was driving them then. After we meet the local residents, we understand why they're driving them now: They can't afford to replace them.
As the movie opens, a local woman named Mona Dearly (Bette Midler) speeds down a country road and directly into the Hudson River when her brakes fail. It is a measure of the local intelligence that when the car and driver are dragged to shore some hours later, the doctor checks her pulse. "She's dead," he confirms to Chief Rash (Danny DeVito), who nods grimly and begins a murder investigation.
Lucinda (Kathleen Wilhoite), the local garage mechanic, checks out the death vehicle and confirms the sheriff's suspicions: The car was rigged. All four brake drums were tampered with, the brake fluid was drained, and the perp also drained some other fluids just to be on the safe side. Now Rash has to decide who killed Mona Dearly.
Almost everyone in town is a suspect. As played in flashbacks by Midler, Mona is a ferocious harridan who may have hacked off her own son's hand just because he was trying to snatch her beer. There are, to be fair, other theories about how Jeff (Marcus Thomas) lost his hand, although in every scenario he was reaching for a beer. Jeff might have wanted to kill her. Or perhaps the murderer was her husband, Phil (William Fichtner), who is having an affair with Rona (Jamie Lee Curtis), a waitress at the local diner (who is also having an affair with Jeff, so maybe she killed Mona just because she was tired of hearing about her from both men).