John Goodman, Peter O'Toole
Take a guy named Ralph who's a big Cubs fan and make him a king. Let him have and do whatever he wants.
Have to love the concept.
In execution this is a mildly diverting comedy, even though writer-director David S. (Major League) Ward has burdened it with a pace bordering on the mucilaginous.
Goodman plays a ne'er-do-well Las Vegas lounge singer with a few droplets of English blood who accedes to the British kingship when the whole royal family is wiped out in a group-portrait accident. O'Toole is the very proper retainer whose job it is to guide Goodman's on-the-throne training and fend off the ambitious John Hurt, a member of the House of Lords who has designs on the royal job himself.
Hurt wants to restore the Stuart family to the throne, but Goodman is supposed to be a distant appendage of the line the film labels Wyndham, presumably to spare the sensibilities of the real-life royal Windsors. Indeed, the whole film is dampered by an unduly solemn attitude toward the monarchy. It cries out for a Pythonite to supply satirical perspective.
Still, Goodman plays it broadly enough to be enjoyable—especially at a formal banquet where he sings a raucous version of "Good Golly, Miss Molly" and in an investiture scene in which he slices a new knight's ear in mid-dub. O'Toole is a model foil of comically resigned dignity: When Goodman tells him he has some redecorating ideas in mind for Buckingham Palace. O'Toole dryly replies, "We'll put the velour industry on full standby."
Camille (Nuns on the Run) Coduri is the commoner—and failed stripper—Goodman develops a crush on. Their relationship, though, suffers particularly from Ward's poky transitions and the dead-calm environment with which he surrounds his cast.
There"s also an awfully melodramatic I closing sequence where Goodman has to deliver an "I have done my best to learn the I ways of royalty" speech. It's worth sitting through, though, if only to hear Goodman finish by singing "Duke of Earl." (PG-13)
Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth Perkins
Just our luck. Here's a comedy that has two directors, Ken Kwapis and Marisa Silver—the better to show a romantic saga from both participants' points of view—and they turn out to be the only compatible man and woman on earth.
When they repeat identical scenes from different vantage points, things look just the same through Perkins's eyes as they do through Bacon's: pretty unoriginal. He's a womanizer, she's marriage-minded, and always the twain shall meet. The only real difference between them is that Perkins gets away with throwing a coffee mug at Bacon's head, a bit of ostensible comedy that would not be regarded as at all funny if it were a man throwing a hard object at a woman.
Bacon and Perkins, as Baltimore reporters whose dueling op-ed columns lead inevitably to love, trundle along looking earnestly likable (he) and beguilingly wide-eyed (she). Periodically, Bacon fends off the advances of Sharon (Total Recall) Stone, one of those only-in-the-movies women who is obviously going to get rejected because she is gorgeous and devoted. There's one painfully contorted restaurant scene in which Perkins fantasizes about the Bacon-Stone relationship.
By the second half of the movie, a certain desperation sets in, so that the Rashomon-like scene changes (sorry, Mr. Kurosawa) seem less like artful variations on a theme than they do the directors' stubborn attempts to keep doing it until they get it right.
Debuting writer Brian Hohlfeld—and how come there's only one writer?—is either satirizing or relying on megaclichéd, sappy dialogue: "You men are all alike. You don't take any of us seriously."
Or how about this snappy exchange: "Sex with me is very good." "Yeah, I'm sure."
It's all almost enough to make you wish for the days of such comedies as About Last Night...(which featured Perkins in a similar role) and When Harry Met Sally...Almost.
Anyway, let's cut to the sequel, The Reviewer Said:
"Redundant and repetitive!"
"Two minutes of entertainment, 113 minutes of ennui!"
"Bacon and Perkins are the new Tracy and Hepburn—they wish!"
"One big toe down!"
"I love it and kiss it and gush over it and will keep gushing until they use this blurb in the ads." ... Oops, wrong reviewer. (PG-13)
Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Demi Moore
, John Candy
After a few minutes, it's clear that this comedy is not enigmatic—just hopelessly confused. The mind drifts off to counting the commercial plugs and undeleted expletives or noticing how many people leave the theater because they have thought of something that's more fun to do—mucking out the rain gutters, maybe, or washing some lettuce.
The credits say the film was directed by Aykroyd, but it doesn't seem to have been directed so much as allowed to happen.
Chase and Moore play New Yorkers who are driving to Atlantic City when they wander off the New Jersey Turnpike and into a bizarre little speed-trap town. There they encounter Candy in two roles: as a quiet police chief and an even quieter—mute, in fact-woman with marriage on her mind.
Aykroyd, as the town's justice of the peace, is made up in a ghastly mask that looks like congealed oatmeal. He has a wooden leg and a false, penis-shape nose that covers a bloody, gaping hole in his face. So much for the funny part.
Aykroyd is also supposed to be trapping and killing people he deems undesirables, running them through a gizmo called Mister Boncstripper. And to give him credit—which may not be necessary since he gave himself two roles and the screenplay in addition to the directing job—Aykroyd does seem morbidly fascinating. He's full of fuss and bluster, acting as if his part were full of wit or pathos or something. (It's all unhappily reminiscent of his performance in the similarly misguided Dr. Detroit.)
The movie is just weird though. Chase seems to be going through the motions, and none too energetically. So does Moore, who also looks so pale as to seem anemic, especially next to Chase, whose skin looks to be the shade of a burnt sienna crayon.
Such amusement as there is comes mostly from Candy's drag performance and his lascivious leers at Chase. There's not a shred of help from the supporting cast, particularly the dull Taylor (Easy Money) Negron and stage actress Bertila Damas, as a Brazilian couple riding with Chase and Moore, or comedian Valri Bromfield, overacting embarrassingly as a police deputy.
Aykroyd's script runs to banal lines in which people describe what they've done. "I was just trying to get away from you," Chase tells Aykroyd after Candy stops him from running away, "and I ran into her."
The film was originally titled Valkenvania—for the name of the odd town. Its release was also delayed, but not nearly long enough. (PG-13)
John Candy and John Goodman are both likable, talented comic actors; neither seems to have missed too many meals. They have something else in common: They are both still waiting for a truly memorable movie role. Goodman had some nice, if limited, moments in Sea of Love and Arachnophobia. But those were second- or third-banana parts. And while his current vehicle, King Ralph, is his film, it's certainly not likely to change anyone's life, Goodman's included. Candy, meanwhile, gets stuffed into another turkey in Nothing but Trouble. Other than appealing supporting shots in such films as Splash and Spaceballs, he has floundered through such disasters as Armed and Dangerous, Brewster's Millions and Who's Harry Crumb? The mediocre Uncle Buck notwithstanding, he still seems sorely underused. It may be that both Candy and Goodman need inspired help to carry a movie, the way Hardy needed Laurel. Maybe they could even use each other. Anyone out there got a comedy script about a pro-wrestling tag team?