The Secret of My Success is Ross's most engaging romantic comedy since California Suite. Interestingly, it uses some of the best elements of his less successful movies: the pictorial splendor of Pennies from Heaven, the fusion of music and image in Footloose, the unbridled comic delivery of Protocol, the sense of character from Max Dugan Returns. [10 Apr 1987, p.1D]
Typically paper thin, the plot and the morality are blown away by the charms of the leading man and a soundtrack that has been hand-picked to get an audience on side. Unadulterated silliness, but harmless fun.
This belabored charade of mistaken identities is guided by Herbert Ross, who has directed everything from The Sunshine Boys to Footloose. Apparently, he's decided to cater to younger moviegoers with this discordant mix of MTV imagery and classic farce.
The profound moral and spiritual emptiness at the core of The Secret Of My Success keeps it from being the dumb fun promised by its premise, title, and extensive use of Yello. The film never bothers to consider why Fox is in such a huge hurry to make it in business, or why the audience should be so invested in his professional success. Instead, it just assumes that everyone is out to make their fortune, get the girl, and come out on top at the end. The film consequently feels like a souped-up Rube Goldberg contraption in a furious hurry to get nowhere in particular.
The Secret of My Success is crushingly bland. Bland, yes, but somewhat chilling, too--particularly in the way Ross and his screenwriters (Jim Cash, Jack Epps Jr. and A.J. Carothers) zero in on their teenage target audience by indulging in the grubbiest of grubby fantasies.