Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) hates his wife, Barbara (Bette Midler), so much that he wants her dead. He’s ecstatic when she’s taken by a duo of kidnappers who want $500,000 ransom in exchange for her life. Fully intending to ignore every one of the kidnappers’ demands in the hopes that they do him a favor and murder her for him, the two confused kidnappers (Judge Reinhold, Helen Slater) have to figure out how they’re going get their money, and what they’re going to do with the overbearing Barbara.
When a famous cheese maker dies in a freak car crash, his daughter (Rachel Ward) is convinced that it was no accident. She thinks he was murdered for his top-secret cheese recipes. To prove her theory, she hires detective Roy Reardon (Steve Martin). His quest to find out what happened to the missing man brings him face-to-face with movie legends, actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Alan Ladd and Burt Lancaster, via footage from classic film noir and crime films.