Call it leaden, call it lackluster; things don't get much flatter than this.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

Call it leaden, call it lackluster; things don't get much flatter than this. The Out-of-Towners is a stale comedy based on a rotten script by Marc Lawrence, who lifted it not so gently from the original Neil Simon screenplay of nearly three decades ago. Even worse, it is a cynical effort by the producers to slide one past us. They put big stars into a glossy production without giving them anything to say.

Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn, and John Cleese are all masters of gesture, motion, and expression as the delivery of choice for one-liners, but can you imagine that collective energy when there is nothing to say? They are forced here to substitute slapstick for the words they don't have. You might as well watch this movie with the sound turned off.

Plot? Henry (Steve Martin) and Nancy (Goldie Hawn) take a long look at each other after their last child leaves home and realize they have nothing to say. The needy couple flies from their Ohio home to New York for a job interview that holds the promise of a new scene and more money that might paper over the gaping new hole in their 27-year marriage. This is the story of their misadventures on that trip.

On the road to the interview, the plot turns on pallid old jokes about a plane diverted by bad weather, the perils of car rentals, negotiating New York traffic, being mugged, and the snobbery of a big city hotel. In a desperate effort to make it work, Hawn falls to the floor when barely touched, Martin gesticulates wildly, and Cleese high kicks his way through a too long transvestite routine.

Is there anything still remotely funny about a man running around Manhattan in his underwear? About a woman being chased by a Rotweiler? About a car running into a vegetable stand? In the 30s, maybe, and certainly before talkies-one of those marvelous old silents accompanied by the movie house piano. But now? the final insult lies in the smugness of the makers. Mayor Rudolph Guiliani appears in a self-congratulatory scene at Tavern-on-the-Green that screams of cooperation between Hollywood and the Office of the Mayor. The city glistens in its chaos; the Plaza Athenee exudes a snobbish elegance even before Mr. Cleese appears as its manager. Enough money has been thrown at the film to make any mayor proud of his city.

The real letdown, of course, is that Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn (filmed here through so much gauze that her wonderful mobile features are reduced to those of suburban matron) are stranded without good lines to support their attempts at physical comedy. When these two can't make you laugh, you know once again that a long credit list, an open checkbook, and three able stars can't make up for the lack of one good scriptwriter. The producers probably knew it too. After a short 92-minute film, they quit. This is a big-budget flop.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Paramount
Rating : PG-13
Running time : 1h32m

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