Rick Moranis, Marcia Strassman

All right, so it is The Attack of the 50-Foot Sequel. This follow-up to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is the most playfully and affably funny comedy since its progenitor, if not since the original Ghostbusters.

Moranis again plays a screwball inventor whose home (he and Strassman have moved to Nevada) is filled with Rube Goldberg-esque gadgets, while at work he is trying to perfect a laser ray designed to enlarge whatever it hits. Robert Oliveri and Amy O'Neill, the shrinking victims in the 1989 original, again play Moranis and Strassman's son and daughter. But this time Moranis accidentally zaps his 2½-year-old son, who undergoes a megagrowth spurt, expands into a 7' (going on 112') toddler and wanders off to stomp around Las Vegas in search of the ambient electricity he craves.

Directed by Randal (White Fang) Kleiser and written by Thom Eberhardt, Peter Elbling and Garry Good-row, the film profits from the one-joke premise without lapsing into lazy or tasteless variations. There isn't even one expletive-laden punch line, though Keri Russell, as a teenage baby-sitter, does look at her suddenly huge charge and mutter, "I'm not changing those diapers!"

The producers had the sense of humor and movie history to cast (as a security guard) Kenneth Tobey, the '50s horror film star. There is also a funny small part for Lloyd Bridges as a mad scientist emeritus. And Julia Sweeney, Saturday Night Life's androgynous Pat, makes an effective nosy neighbor.

All that and Moranis's copious talent for funny double takes notwithstanding, the film's focal points are Daniel and Joshua Shalikar, the 3-year-old New Jersey twins who share the role of the outsize boy. The twins are not only remarkably cute and winning, but turn in remarkable acting performances, making the most of such lines as "Mama fall down" and "No nap!"

Nothing very meaningful or surprising happens in this movie, but what does transpire is so good-natured and consistently light in tone that it's difficult to keep a smile off your face as you watch. (PG)

Gabriel Byrne, Kim Basinger

The first movie in close to a decade from cartoonist Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat), this blend of animation and live action is a ramshackle mess. Coming four years after Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which mixed actors and animation with such ingenuity, it is almost unpardonable.

A comic-book character named Holli Would, who looks like a '50s Playboy cartoon, longs to escape into three-dimensional life. To accomplish that, though, she has to make love to Byrne, the artist who created her and the setting she inhabits, a nightmarish urban landscape called Cool World.

The depiction of the human-cartoon interaction is primitive—and if you expect to see a 2-D bimbo have explicit sex with a 3-D guy, forget it. Worse, Bakshi has crowded the screen with other denizens of Cool World, an eye-wearying army of scabrous, drooling, pop-eyed critters who swarm about like june bugs on acid.

Bakshi has a few inspired notions: The skyline of Cool World suggests Pinocchio's Pleasure Island blended into modern New York City, and there are vivid minutes toward the end when the cartoons escape Cool World and come roaring out in a hellish swirl that suggests a possible parody of Fantasia's "Night on Bald Mountain." Cool World also has one memorably odd scene: Basinger, who provides Holli's voice and then plays her humanized version, sings Let's Make Love with Frank Sinatra Jr.

Back to the drawing board, everyone. (PG-13)

Alec Baldwin, Sydney Walker, Meg Ryan

Apparently aimed at the post-Ghost psychic romance market, this film is a parable whose message is love conquers all. Adapted from a hit play, the sometimes softheaded film centers on the serious Baldwin and the almost manic Ryan, who meet at a party. Though in many ways they're opposites—he wants children, she doesn't, he embraces life, she fears it—they quickly fall in love and make plans to many.

But Prelude is no simple walk-off-into-the-sunset romance. Just before the wedding ceremony, for example, Ryan closely questions Baldwin about whether he will still love her when she's a sagging centenarian. Then during the ceremony, she appears to stumble over the part of the vow dealing with sickness and health. And to cap things off, there's a mysterious guest at the wedding, a gat-crashing senior citizen, the veteran stage actor Walker, who asks the bride for a kiss and then receives it to the clichéd accompaniment of a suddenly darkened sky.

It's during the couple's Jamaica honeymoon, though, that Baldwin becomes convinced something is amiss. Ryan, a former socialist, is bewilderingly cavalier about the economic disparity between tourists and natives. Also, even though she was a bartender, she doesn't know the ingredients in Long Island Iced Tea. Gradually, Baldwin realizes that Ryan and the wedding guest have somehow switched bodies, which means he is effectively in love with an infirm old man, a new twist on movies like Big and Freaky Friday.

There is a piercingly lovely flow of language through sections of Prelude, but that turns out to be a problem. However effectively playwright-screenwriter Craig Lucas's words may have bounced off theater walls, such words, in the movie, have a stagy, artificial edge. Director Norman (Longtime Companion) René tries to compensate with such contrivances as high-angle camera shots, but to no good purpose. For the most part, Ryan, who tosses her hair and flashes her teeth coquettishly in a manner that went out with Farrah Fawcett, basically reprises her ditsy When Harry Met Sally...role. It is left more to Walker and most to Baldwin (who originated the role off-Broadway) to effectively carry the movie's emotional freight. (PG-13)

  • Contributors:
  • Ralph Novak,
  • Tom Gliatto,
  • Joanne Kaufman.