Picks and Pans Review: Paternity

updated 11/02/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/02/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

Burt Reynolds has already called this trendy comedy about a bachelor who wants a son but no wife "the story of my life." But for all Burt's flash, talent and eagerness to please, this groggy flick is an assembly-line product that never meets its obligation to a loaded, potentially explosive subject. Reynolds, as the manager of Madison Square Garden, sets out to find a surrogate mother, motivated by the desire for a son "who will say I was here." His search leads him first to Lauren Hutton, then to a woman with braces on her teeth whom he rejects because he doesn't want a child "who looks like Jaws II." Then he hits on waitress Beverly D'Angelo, she of the requisite "healthy breasts." After legally settling on the number of impregnation attempts and a fee ($50,000), the two strangers go at it—mostly standing up, since Burt thinks that's how you make a boy. Well, guess what? Right, they fall in love. Unhappily, the story's stronger satirical implications then go out the window. A director with the right touch, like Alan Pakula in Reynolds' Starting Over, might have fleshed out the gags in the Charlie Peters script. But comic David Steinberg, in his directorial debut, has neither the technique nor the inclination to midwife the movie's potential. What should be sly is merely smug. Still, Reynolds has an undeniable built-in charm, D'Angelo a buoyant wit, and Paul Dooley, Norman Fell and a smashing Elizabeth Ashley provide a wealth of comic reserves. But for the most part, Paternity, which aims for pertinence, settles for platitudes. (PG)

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