Movie Openings

Movie Openings

Love! Valor! Compassion!*M

<\p><\p><\p><\p>(Palo Alto Square) Terrence McNally's Tony Award-winning play "Love! Valour! Compassion!" is about the emotional richness and depth of the friendships between six gay men who together form a de facto family. While marred by the sensibility that aging and dying are more tragic when experienced by homosexuals, the play is good theater. The scenes are short and crisp, the dialogue is waspish and witty, and the characters--though built from stereotypes--have considerable depth.

In adapting it for the screen, McNally and director Joe Mantello have not shied away from the deep kisses and full male nudity that give the play a kind of comic shock value. But what they appear afraid to put on screen is anything that might make the gay community uncomfortable. Gone are the verbal venom that gives the play its energy, the simultaneous embracing and parodying of gay mannerisms that give it an edge, and the moments of meanness that make the characters interesting. What remains is a cross between a Hallmark commercial (sweet people saying sweet things to each other while Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" plays in the background) and a World War II bomber movie in which, instead of a plane whose crew is composed of lovable ethnic stereotypes, we get a summer house whose guests run the gamut of gay stereotypes. (Their interrelationships over the course of the summer is the substance of the film.)

As the film's central figure, Buzz, the musical comedy-loving "love child of Liberace and Judy Garland," Jason Alexander never appears to be comfortable in his role. Unlike the rest of the ensemble, all of whom are reprising their roles from the New York stage production and all of whom are completely convincing, Alexander comes across as an actor doing bits of gay shtick.

John Glover, on the other hand, gives a performance to behold. If you care about acting, his stunning portrayal of opposite-in-spirit identical twins is reason enough to see this otherwise lackluster effort. Rated: R. 2 hours, 2 minutes

--Leonard Schwarz

Father's Day*1/2

<\p><\p><\p><\p>(Century 16, Century 12) What happened? This yuckfest dream team seemed too good to be true: Robin Williams and Billy Crystal together in one picture, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine in "Seinfeld") supporting, directed by Ivan Reitman. . . . But what was a light French souffle in the original "Les Comperes" falls indigestibly flat in this dull and mean-spirited little farce.

Dashed expectations aside, this is still tough going. To what do we attribute this puzzingly low-level stuff from two American comic treasures? This has a made-for-TV look and feel, surprising from the director of some pretty great stuff like "Dave" and "Ghostbusters."

When Collette (Nastassja Kinski) confronts workaholic lawyer Jack Lawrence (Crystal) with the news that 1) Scott, her 17-year-old son, was fathered by Jack, 2) Scott has gone missing, and 3) it is Jack's responsibility to find him, he hesitates to take the news seriously. So Collette tells the same story to Dale Putley (Williams), a suicidal performance artist who finds new reason to live when he hears the news.

Jack finally comes around and the two new fathers join in frantic pursuit of their supposed son, who is following a heavy metal band around the West. Joining the chase are two drug dealers from whom Scott stole $5,000, Jack's wife (Louis-Dreyfus), and Bob, Collette's husband (Bruce Greenwood), who is desperate to make good with his son.

Boy, are Jack and Dale mad when they find out they're being manipulated by Collette. Boy, does each want to prove he is really Scott's dad. Boy, are we in trouble when these two 40-somethings get into a head-butting melee at a rock concert, taking out plenty of young hooligan types, all in the name of comedy.

Crystal and Williams have their usual fun, (Billy's soulful eyes look like he's still talking to the calf in "City Slickers"; Robin brings in loads of his obligatory funny voices), but these guys can do this stuff in their sleep--and they seemed like they were.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is alarming in this picture as Jack's unsympathetic, nagging wife. Any of her fun has been leached out, leaving just a pain in the neck. Granted, Louis-Dreyfus must be allowed to stray from her television persona, but she chose one stinky direction with this character.

The great, complex machine of movie-making mustn't draw attention to itself, or the illusion is shattered, and this one's awfully creaky. The countless extras in the large concert, airline, casino and restaurant scenes all seem like neophytes. Some of the only fun in this movie can be had watching them trying not to look at the camera, playing "nonchalant" a little too hard. And something's seriously wrong if you're spending time watching extras. Rated PG-13. 1 hour, 41 minutes

--Jim Shelby