What better situation for the man with the soulful eyes and wounded psyche to find himself in than the city of romance with a dead body?


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

"Forget Paris" is a perfect match between a good premise and Billy Crystal. The father Mickey (Crystal) detested has died at last, with a deathbed request that his son bury him in France near the bodies of his wartime comrades. What better situation for the man with the soulful eyes and wounded psyche to find himself in than the city of romance with a dead body?

After the airline loses the body, Ellen (Debra Winger), suddenly and implausibly, rises from the mire of French bureaucracy to help the hapless American. In instant love, they play out their romance in the city of universal fantasy. As all dreams must, this one ends up in someone's regular life--in this case, back in the U.S. in Mickey's on-the-road existence as a first-rate NBA basketball referee.

If the thought of the diminutive Crystal exploding out of a huddle of seven-foot basketball players is funny, the reality is even funnier. In complete, loudmouthed control of the big guys, he's king of the court. Can the odd couple find happiness with the ref on the road and Ellen in a suburban kitchen with no one to cook for?

The whole movie is one giant shaggy-dog story that unfolds in a restaurant where Mickey's friends have gathered in honor of the about-to-be bride of one of them. Awaiting Mickey's arrival, they are telling the tale of his romance to the newcomer, who hangs on every word. She, and we, learn the details together, never knowing until the end whether the lovers have made it work.

The anticipation of Crystal's slow burn and the anguish of his predicaments make us chuckle even before they happen. The movie is blessed with some terrific lines, outlandish visual images, and a zany score. It is well-built, cutting cleverly between time, place, and people.

Crystal makes two tasteless slips that break the momentum. Infertility, topical as it is, is not intrinsically funny. Neither is senility. Both conditions defy human effort and, thereby, humor. The reason courtship and marriage are mines of humor is that they are impossible, but we make them work. The old man in question should have been a pest rather than a pathetic, doddering burden. Feelings sag when comedy cuts too close to pain.

Playing opposite the lovable clown is a tough assignment. Debra Winger almost holds her own, especially during several wildly comic outbursts when she uncharacteristically screams forth her rage. Cynthia Nixon is a real charmer as Liz, the innocent who can barely absorb the spiraling emotional content of the believe-it-or-not story of her fiance's friends.

As good as the supporting cast is, pull Billy Crystal's card out of this deck and the house will collapse on itself. As producer, writer, director, and star, he gets full credit for all the fun. In the high moments, his comedy is as good as it gets. As Ellen says, "I love you because you make me laugh." Just so.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 503
Studio : Columbia Pictures
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 1h35m

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