Jennifer Aniston, Jay Mohr, Kevin Bacon, Olympia Dukakis

Why, a reader recently wrote after my negative review of a particularly moronic action film, can't movie critics "just sit back with a Coke and a smile?" Because we're paid to do something quite different (and because soft drinks are verboten in the tiny screening rooms where most movies are unspooled for critics). That said, however, Picture Perfect is one movie that's ideal for the laid-back approach. Simply accept it for what it is: a savvy romantic comedy that's about as substantial as the teensy-weensy green frock Aniston wears so fetchingly in one party scene.

Aniston stars as a 28-year-old copywriter at a Manhattan ad agency whose career and love life are going nowhere. All that changes when she pretends to be engaged to a fellow (Mohr, who was Tom Cruise's nemesis in Jerry Maguire) she met by chance at a wedding. Believing that Aniston's character is now a grown-up, her boss gives her a big promotion. And a sexy but caddish colleague (Bacon), attracted by her sudden unavailability, begins wooing her. Inevitably, trouble looms when Aniston must produce her fake fiancé for a business dinner.

Picture Perfect, as directed by Glenn Gordon Caron (TV's Moonlighting), plays like a smart sitcom. Everyone's lines are just a little snappier than in real life, and the plot, as Aniston herself says in the movie, is "like something out of The Patty Duke Show." Aniston, however, easily carries the picture on her narrow shoulders, proving herself as the only Friends star so far to show serious big-screen oomph. Bacon is amusingly sleazy, while Mohr, though likable, is a tad too much the moist-eyed puppy. In the end, one can enjoy Picture Perfect without buying into it. As Dukakis, playing Aniston's mom, says after Aniston claims a new hairdo makes Dukakis look years younger, "I don't believe a word of it, but I appreciate the effort." (PG-13)

Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman

Harrison Ford is the dream President. Playing the leader of the free world in Air Force One (see cover story, page 90), he is as principled as Lincoln, as plain talking as Truman, as easy on the eyes as Kennedy and, as a former Medal of Honor winner in Vietnam, as ready to bash heads as any villain. Who wouldn't vote for this guy?

Air Force One, a rousing thriller directed with exemplary proficiency by Wolfgang Petersen {Das Boot and In the Line of Fire), hits cruising speed with its first scene and never slows down. The movie pits Ford against a renegade Kazakhstan terrorist (Oldman, convincingly wild-eyed) who hijacks the presidential plane and holds a gun to the head of the First Lady (Wendy Crewson) and the 12-year-old First Daughter (Liesel Matthews). It is up to Ford, secreted down in the bowels of the jet when Oldman and his band of terrorists first take over, to outfox the hijackers and save his family and the-other hostages onboard.

Among those ably supporting him on the ground are Glenn Close, as the flinty Veep, and Dean Stockwell, who adds a touch of vinegar as an Al Haig-like ("I'm in charge here," he says) Secretary of Defense. But AF1 belongs to Ford. With his aw-shucks demeanor and air of unflinching moral rectitude, he is as close as we come in today's Hollywood to Gary Cooper. (R)

Kel Mitchell, Kenan Thompson

When an angry rival warns Ed (Mitchell) that he had better watch his butt, the dim-witted fast-food worker cheerfully complies, turning his head to peek at his posterior and then spinning round like a dog chasing its tail. And that, folks, is as witty as the jokes get in Good Burger, a lame comedy about two teens (Mitchell and Thompson) who dish out chow at a burger joint. Mitchell and Thompson have played the same characters in a recurring sketch on All That, a popular TV show on the Nickelodeon channel, and have their own spinoff Nick show, Kenan and Kel. Young fans will be amused by the duo's dopey antics, but most adults will simply be perplexed. (PG)

Carlos Cruz, Mirtha Ibarra, Jorge Perugorria

A lively comedy (with subtitles) from Cuba, Guantanamera doubles as a tasty travelogue. While driving halfway across the island nation with the corpse of a relative they're transporting for burial, an overbearing bureaucrat (Cruz) and his wife (Ibarra), a university professor, keep crossing paths with a handsome trucker (Perugorria). Once a pupil of the wife's, he dropped out of college shortly after sending her a love letter. The trip turns into a journey of self-discovery for all three, but for American viewers it also offers fascinating, documentary-like glimpses of contemporary Cuba, a land where dollars are the currency of choice and restaurants are always out of food. (Not rated)

>Vincent D'Onofrio

BUGGY OVER BAD GUY ROLES

CURRENTLY PLAYING THE EVIL intergalactic insect in the monster hit Men in Black, Vincent D'Onofrio is accustomed to alienating folks for the sake of his art. For his first major film role, as the hulking boot-camp grunt who goes homicidal in 1987's Full Metal Jacket, the handsome, 6'4" actor packed on 70 pounds—at considerable personal expense. "The girl I was going out with left me," says the 38-year-old character actor. "She couldn't deal with the weight."

Brooklyn-born and raised in Hawaii and Miami, D'Onofrio revels in oddball roles. After playing the lovable boy toy to Lili Taylor in 1988's Mystic Pizza, he says he faced a choice: commercially safe "brat-pack films" or darker roles. "I believed I was doing one of the most important things in the world," says the former student of Manhattan's American Stanislavsky Theater. "I wanted to do movies like Midnight Cowboy." Instead came 1991's Fires Within, during the shooting of which he fell for costar Greta Scacchi, ultimately fathering their daughter Leila, now 5. "The film was terrible," he says, "but I'm glad I did it because I wouldn't have my daughter." Split from Scacchi since 1993, he married Dutch ex-model Carin Van Der Donk, 27, last March. "I don't get jump-up-and-down excited about success," says the Hollywood resident, who also stars with Rebecca De Mornay in the new release The Winner. "What gets me emotionally are things like the time Carin told me she loved me. That was something to jump up and down about."

  • Contributors:
  • Elizabeth Leonard.