As clever, satisfying and playful as The Sting, this film about a prizefight con game is bloody good fun, from its prison-fight opening to its twist-filled, mega-punch-up climax.
Woods plays a con man who learns in a Georgia prison about a boxing-obsessed town nearby that seems vulnerable to a scam. Gossett, as an old buddy and fellow con man, displays an earnestness and apparent decency that make him a sympathetic partner for Woods. (Gossett is supposed to be a boxer, though, and at 56 he's on the flabby side to be playing an athlete.)
Dern, the high-rolling political (and boxing) boss of the Georgia town, is the target of the con, which involves Woods's boast that Gossett can beat 10 men in the ring in one day.
Graham, Woods's 22-year-old girlfriend, complements his smarminess, playing a townswoman who sides with him and Gossett as they build their scheme. Her brother, the prison buddy who tipped Woods off to the boxing-crazed town, is played by Randall "Tex" Cobb, who uses his experience as a pro fighter to give a convincing performance as a guy who gets his face mashed in a prison fight.
That bane of boxing movies, the final bout whose outcome is all too easy In predict, is relieved by a series of double crosses and counterploys as Woods plays his con. (R)
Pam Dawber, John Ritter, Jeffrey Jones
TV is such a sitting duck for satire that it can't have been easy to make this intended send-up so dull and off the mark.
Directed by Peter Hyams, an adroit action-film director (Narrow Margin) whose talent for comedy will remain suspect, the film is about a suburban couple, Dawber and Ritter, who are absorbed into a television dimension when Ritter buys a huge new set and satellite dish from Jones, in reality a salesman for Hellvision, the dimension Ritter and Dawber get trapped in.
They run into such far-underground shows as Northern Overexposure, Sadistic Hidden Video, Different Strokes (about patients afflicted with a variety of strokes), and My Three Sons of Bitches. Hyams and writers Tom Parker and Jim Jennewein settle for merely flaunting their bottom-of-the-cesspool taste, never developing any of these premises.
Producers James G. Robinson and Arne Schmidt didn't even pony up to cast the TV dimension with old small-screen stars (Sid Caesar, say, or Bob Denver could have enlivened things). Ritter does, though, meet Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt, his old Three's Company mates. (PG-13)
Nicolas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker
, James Caan
Elvis lives. Or at least his memory gives a great comic performance in this light-spirited, literate romantic comedy directed and written by that modern-day Preston Sturges, Andrew (The Freshman) Bergman.
Cage, much less surly than usual but still unlikely to make anyone forget Cary Grant, is a compulsively gambling New York City private eye who elopes to Las Vegas with Parker. They end up in the middle of an Elvis impersonators' convention, which provides a marvelous comic backdrop.
There's a potentially sleazy sort of plot twist when Cage pays off a poker bet by giving Parker to big-time gambler Caan for a weekend. But Caan goes light on the lechery, and Bergman—who never resorts to cheap sex-or obscenity-based humor—doesn't really compromise Parker enough to make Cage seem reprehensible, even when Caan takes Parker to his beach house in Hawaii. When Cage follows, he ends up confronting Peter Boyle, charcteristically droll as an aging, hippielike Hawaiian chief.
Cage also runs into an amusing troupe of skydiving Elvises. (Their climactic jump, wearing jumpsuits fringed with electric lights, is a memorable bit of visual comedy.)
Even the sound track of this film is a delight, devoted to Elvis hits—by Presley and by modern singers.
There aren't that many movies these days that are likely to put both a smile on your face and a song in your heart. (PG-13)
James Woods, Louis Gossett Jr., Bruce Dern, Heather Graham