Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, the directors of the smash Airplane! and the underrated Top Secret!, here turn their hands to a more traditional character comedy, yet this 1986 film’s funniest effects still come through their imaginative, frequently astonishing manipulations of the narrative line. The basic situation finds a nice young couple (Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater) kidnapping the shrewish wife (Bette Midler) of a cunning, mean-spirited businessman (Danny DeVito). The first reversal is fairly obvious—DeVito doesn’t want his wife back, because he’s been planning to murder her anyway—but A, Z, and Z dispose of that one in the first few minutes; from there they zoom into the realm of reverse reversals, reverse reverse reversals, and so on into infinity. The trick is to accomplish all this while still remaining within the bounds of a certain plausibility and naturalism; amazingly they bring it off, through a combination of first-rate performances, immaculate timing, a carefully controlled point of view, and a deftly maintained rapid pace. It’s a rare kind of craftsmanship, and it produces a rare kind of pleasure. With Anita Morris, Bill Pullman, and William G. Schilling.