Nick Gardenia (Chevy Chase), an out-of-luck writer, has the use of a friend’s oceanside cabin in Big Sur, California. He is interrupted by a pair of bank robbers who use him to rob a bank in Carmel. Their M.O. is to take an innocent person, force them at gunpoint to rob a bank, and then take the money and toss their captive out of their car. Unfortunately for Nick (in one of Chase’s signature pratfalls), he trips in the bank, is helped up and looks directly into a security camera.
The bank’s picture of Nick comes to the attention of Los Angeles district attorney Ira Parks (Charles Grodin) when his assistant, Fred (Robert Guillaume), recognizes it to be Parks’ wife’s ex-husband. Because of his desire to become the state’s attorney general, Ira is frustrated and upset, thinking this could harm his campaign.
Ira’s wife, Glenda (Goldie Hawn), is a lawyer herself. A public defender, Glenda often tries to rehabilitate her clients by giving them odd jobs around their house, as with her chauffeur/butler Chester (T. K. Carter). After a long day in court, Glenda comes home to mixed news—joy for Ira’s run for Attorney General and surprise when Ira gives her the news about Nick. She wants to defend Nick because of her disbelief that he would ever do such a thing.
The robbers ditch Nick and he desperately begins to make his way to Glenda and Ira’s Brentwood home, inadvertently holding up a gas station attendant for candy bars along the way. During a party, Glenda, while searching for one of her dogs, finds Nick hiding in her garage. He begs for help and she tries to get him some food, despite most of the leaders of law enforcement being in her house. Nick explains what happened, but Glenda refuses to help unless he turns himself in. Glenda finally agrees to let him sleep in a guest room over the garage.
The next day Nick decides he wants to go after the guys who did this to him. After some comically close run-ins with the police, Ira, and her feisty maid, Aurora De La Hoya (Yvonne Wilder), Glenda manages to keep anyone from knowing Nick was there. He later robs Glenda of her car but then reappears over her garage, and another confrontation ensues between Ira and Glenda.
Ira soon discovers Nick was telling the truth about the two men who forced him to rob the bank. About to have the governor of California coming to the house for dinner, Glenda must deal with court cases, her maid having foot surgery (which could ruin the party without the governor’s favorite dish), and Chester getting drunk in the kitchen. The party takes a hilarious turn when Nick, coming back to turn himself in, ends up serving dinner to the governor, Ira, Glenda, and Fred. The dinner ultimately ends in a fistfight between a jealous Ira and Nick, during which Fred is knocked out.
Nick, Glenda, Ira, Aurora, the dogs and the robbers ultimately end up in the courtroom of Glenda’s favorite Judge John Channing (Harold Gould). While the judge is overwhelmed by the happenings in the Parks household, the police bring in the bank robbers. They admit Nick’s innocence in exchange for a reduced sentence after getting caught by Aurora and the dogs when they attempted to force her to rob a bank, just like they had done with Nick.
After all is said and done, Nick is free, but he and Glenda still have unresolved feelings. She decides to stay with Ira and kisses Nick good-bye. Some time later, Ira and Glenda decide to take a car trip to forget the recent events. They end up in an accident trying to avoid a cow on the road. Ira breaks his leg, so Glenda has to go for help. She ends up at the only place around: a cabin with all the lights on. Glenda pounds on the door begging for help. The door opens and she discovers the cabin is Nick’s.