Michael J. Fox, James Woods
Aaaarrgggghh! Another buddy movie.
Yeccchhh! Another buddy cop movie.
But wait! Delete those expletives! Its a funny buddy cop movie.
With Fox breezily putting down his own star stature (and diminutive size) and Woods sending up macho-movie rough guys, the comedy harmonics are right; so is the tone—basically good-natured yet not above a few blood-drawing digs.
Fox is the star of a series of Hollywood adventure films who wants to play a serious cop role; Woods is a tough New York City police detective chasing a serial murderer. When Fox pulls strings to get himself assigned to Woods as an observing partner, the two generate a comically perfect lack of chemistry. When Annabella (Cadillac Man) Sciorra shows up as Woods's girlfriend, she becomes the catalyst that gets them together and gives the movie a second-stage lift-off.
The ending is uninspired. Nor does the script (Daniel Pyne and Lem Dobbs) make the most of the two stars' abilities. Chase scenes are few, however, and there are some deftly written and acted bits, such as Fox trying to ingratiate himself with Woods: "You're a heavyweight. You're the best. You're a Yoda among cops."
There's also a gem of a sequence in which Fox, using his expertise as an accomplished ladies' man, pretends he's a woman—in a role-playing exercise to help Woods learn to communicate with Sciorra.
John (Bird on a Wire) Badham directed, nicely using the Fox-Woods counter-rapport and drawing support from Sciorra, Delroy Lindel, as Woods's star-struck boss, and rapper L.L. Cool J as another cop.
We shouldn't as a rule encourage movie sequels any more than we do mosquito-breeding ponds. But in this case, the natural sequel—Woods going to Hollywood to make a movie with Fox—sounds promising. And any film that can make both buddy cop plots and sequels seem palatable must have something going for it. (R)
Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan
This is not Spinal Tap. But it is often close to that rock-documentary parody, so excessive was Jim Morrison and the reaction to him, so credulous is director Oliver (Born on the Fourth of July) Stone's attitude toward him in this extravagant, hypnotic, heavy-handed, good-bad trip of a movie.
Morrison and his band, the Doors, had had a half-dozen years of flash success when he died in 1971 of what was called a heart attack. But he was, at 27, a voracious substance abuser, and he is usually ranked among the '60s self-wasted musicians.
Stone has said of Morrison, "When he died in 1971, it was like the day JFK died for me....I worshiped him." He ends the film with a canonization, juxtaposing shots of Morrison's tomb with those of Proust, Chopin and Bizet.
It's an outrageous attitude to take toward a monotonal singer whose rhymes-r-us idea of poetry was a couplet matching "wallow in the mire" with "our love become a funeral pyre." And a life that was, at least as portrayed here, a permanent floating psychotic break hardly justifies reverence.
But if you have to get yourself lionized, Stone is the guy to do it. He doesn't know from anything less than larger-than-life.
He and cowriter J. Randal (Dudes) Johnson clearly want to depict Morrison as a genius. Kilmer (Willow), as Morrison, and his bandmates keep gushing such pompous lines as, "The planet is screaming for change. We gotta make the myths."
Aside from one sequence that shows Morrison witnessing a highway accident as a boy, there is no context for his despairing behavior, no indication that he knows anything of much interest. Instead. Stone treats the singer's self-destructive, self-pitying, universally abusive behavior as prima facie proof that Morrison was an inspired artist.
Ryan, as Morrison's woefully devoted girlfriend Pam Courson, and Kyle (Twin Peaks) MacLachlan, as straight-arrow Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, are portrayed as if their relative normality is to be scorned. Meanwhile, Morrison goes through women, drugs, booze and chest-hair shampoo at a fierce pace.
Stone, with his mastery of sound and broad images, stages orgiastic concert scenes that effectively call into question audience motivations (which appear to be mindless rebellion and blind, women-have-only-one-thing-on-their-mind lust). It's a measure of how much he wants to magnify Morrison, though, that Stone resorts to so much mumbo jumbo: Mystical American Indian figures keep materializing, and it's not only Morrison who sees them.
The impressive cast, headed by the grimly intense Kilmer (whose take on Morrison is more cynical than Stone's), seems constantly wired. Kevin (Immediate Family) Dillon is Doors drummer John Densmore, and Frank (Born on the Fourth of July) Whaley is guitarist Robby Krieger. Kathleen Quinlan adds a sexy-demonic quality as Morrison's witchy consort, Patricia Kennealy, and the cameo performers include singers Billy Idol, Fiona, Bonnie Bramlett, Billy Vera and Paul Williams. Crispin Glover (a perfect Andy Warhol) also appears, as do Mimi Rogers, lawyer William Kunstler and Will Jordan, reviving his Ed Sullivan imitation. There's milling around, psychedelic effects, near-explicit sex and violence.
This is, yes, a big movie, a long one (135 minutes) and full of displays of the abilities of those involved. In the end, though, all that talent and dedication is misplaced—as if somebody had carved Michael Dukakis's head into Mount Rushmore. (R)
Woody Allen, Bette Midler
Director Paul (Enemies, a Love Story) Mazursky seems to have it a bit backward. The usual idea is that in order to create art, you take real life, eliminate the meaningless parts and come up with something vivid. In this comedy about a crisis in a 16-year marriage, however, Mazursky goes through a day, finds all the vivid moments and makes them as meaningless as everything else.
As the Los Angeles couple who pick the same day to reveal to each other that they have been unfaithful, Allen and Midler spend most of the movie on-camera together. They go through various tantrums, reconciliations, countertantrums and re-reconciliations as they wander around a mall.
The script, by Mazursky and Roger (Enemies) Simon, imposes on the resources even of Allen and Midler. There's little to be done with dialogue as lacking in surprises as: "Mimes! They're worse than Hare Krishnas." Or the amateur shrinkology: "You come on strong with the world, but you hate yourself, and what better person to take it out on than your partner."
The title is too close to Ingmar Bergman's grim approach to the same subject, Scenes from a Marriage, to be a coincidence, and Mazursky drags in background music from Fellini movies, as if this name-dropping might cultivate talent by association.
The only character of any consequence other than Allen and Midler is the mime, Bill (My Blue Heaven) Irwin, who is supposed to be—and effectively is—an annoying presence. The only emotionally satisfying moment, in fact, comes when Allen gets tired of being mimicked and socks Irwin. This should be a good test of how large the mime-bashing market is out there. (R)
However you feel about Jim Morrison as the subject of a glorifying movie biography, The Doors is a reminder of how many American musicians' life stories might make intriguing films. To name a few: Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Fats Waller. Remember too: The definitive Elvis movie is yet to be made, and no one has so far dared touch The Lawrence Welk Story.