Madonna, Willem Dafoe, Joe Mantegna, Anne Archer

The buzz surrounding Madonna's latest screen project, Body of Evidence, is that it is a rip-off of last year's notoriously naughty—and successful-thriller Basic Instinct. The rumor is not entirely accurate. Body of Evidence has the dubious distinction of being not enough like Basic Instinct. It is not slick, kinky or even scary. What it is just plain silly.

The plot is (Basic-ally) familiar. A sexy blonde—played by Madonna with all the cool of a girl trying to saunter in her first pair of high heels—is a Portland, Oreg., S&M queen who gets her kicks making men writhe while handcuffed to bedposts. When her current lover—an older rich man with a weak heart—turns up dead in bed, Madonna is accused of murder-by-overarousal. She responds by getting Dafoe to defend and, promptly, bed her. "Have you ever seen animals make love, Frank?" asks Madonna. "It's intense. It's violent. But they never hurt each other." "We're not animals," argues Dafoe. "Yes," says Madonna, "we are."

This is, in Evidence, what passes for deep conversation. But then almost nothing in this pretentious movie is the genuine article. The lighting is so overdramatic it seems more spoofish than effective. The acting is wooden (most regrettably by "other woman" Archer, who is stuck annoyingly between frenzied and forlorn). And the courtroom banter is both boring and absurd.

Even the sex is wanting. "That's what I do. I f—-," brags Madonna to Dafoe, adding, "I'm hard to resist." And, in fact, the raunchy scenes between her and Dafoe are the best part of the film. (Candle shops may well be hit by adventurous types wondering just how much hot wax really hurts.) Still, the movie cries for more kink—not so much in act as in attitude. Unlike Sharon Stone in Instinct, Madonna rarely indulges in unexpected in-your-face come-ons: Her clothes are prim and drab; she never flirts with the police officers; on the stand, she explains the handcuffs—"Andrew bought them for Valentine's Day"—without a trace of irony or devilish delight. This may be a wise defense technique, but it makes for a forgettable film. (R)

Josh Hamilton, Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano

Profoundly chilling in every sense of the word, this is a thoughtful, involving adventure tale that ranks with such memorable survival films as Swiss Family Robinson. The Red Tent. Green Hell and Flight of the Phoenix.

Directed by Spielberg crony Frank Marshall, Alive is adapted from the 1974 book of the same title by Piers Paul Read, which told what happened when a twin-engine prop plane went down in the snowy Chilean Andes in October 1972. The crash killed 21 people on board and exposed the rest to a 70-day ordeal of terrible cold, fear and starvation that eventually induced those who survived to eat parts of the corpses of those who did not.

Screenwriter John Patrick Shanley (in a creative turn from his hit Moonstruck) and Marshall handle the cannibalism discreetly. They devote much more time to the emotional and moral crises faced by the survivors, most of whom were players or followers of a Uruguayan rugby team on its way to Chile. There is even an explicit comparison of the cannibalism to the Catholic sacrament of communion.

The mostly American cast is headed by Spano, as the team's captain, and Hamilton, as a sensitive medical student who comes to function as the group's conscience. Hawke movingly evokes the tensions and confusions of the survivors trying to endure their predicament.

Marshall stages the crash in terrifyingly vivid detail. He also is judicious in his use of background music. Rather than slather the sound track with bathetic or stirring orchestrations, he keeps things quiet, allowing the audience to hear the cracking and snapping noises of the crashing plane, the dull moans of the injured, and the quiet roar of an impending avalanche.

In that way, among others, the film is reminiscent of The Killing Fields. It sounds real; it looks real; it plays real. It's easy to believe that people actually behaved this way, nobly, ignobly and indifferently. Truth is not always inspiring. (R)

Jennifer Aniston, Warwick Davis, Ken Olandt

They had the potato famine. They have to take the rap for St. Patrick's Day, P. J. O'Rourke and John McEnroe. Now they have the misfortune to be associated with this unimaginative, sluggish, humorless gross-out horror movie. The luck of the Irish is not always good.

This film was written and directed by Mark Jones, who seems to have not so much kissed the Blarney Stone as had it fall on his head. The plot involves a sadistic leprechaun pursuing a sack of gold coins purloined from him by a North Dakota Irish-American who had gone to Ireland for his mother's burial. Jones's idea of wit is to dwell on the leprechaun's rotted teeth or to cut from a clawed face, dripping blood and torn flesh, to a shot of people eating red meat.

Aniston, part of the lively east of the satiric Fox TV show The Edge, is the biggest name associated with the movie. As a Los Angeleno vacationing in the North Dakota house where the leprechaun is trapped, she has to try to handle such lines as "It's not a damned leprechaun." Davis plays the offending sprite, who in his high-heeled brogans and garish-colored outfit looks like an o'transvestite. Olandt helps Aniston complete the requisite horror-movie cute young couple.

The effects are not at all special. Jones's only original thoughts were to give the leprechaun an obsession with shining shoes and add a bit of arcana to monster-movie lore: His leprechaun reacts to four-leaf clovers the way vampires do to crucifixes.

Otherwise, it's hard to get interested. As monsters, leprechauns are minor leaguers compared with the killer bunnies of Night of the Lepus or the berserk Santa of Silent Night, Deadly Night. (R)

>EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

BABY BOOMERS, RAISED IS THE COMFORTING, low-radiation glow of the television set, are now fully grown and running the country. They are also raising new generations in front of the tube, flooding their little minds with such cable programming as Nick at Nite, which is one vintage sitcom after another. So it's not surprising that this tele-conditioned nation made a $111 million hit out of the Charles Addams New Yorker cartoons turned classic '60s sitcom, The Addams Family.

Now Hollywood is at work on a slew of new movies—either ready-to-go or in-the-making—based on other old series, including The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, Car 54, Where Are You?, Dennis the Menace (also cartoon-inspired), a live-action version of The Flintstones and, of course, The Addams Family 2. So don't touch that dial. Just head for the multiplex. Or the hills.

  • Contributors:
  • Karen S. Schneider,
  • Ralph Novak.