Picks and Pans Review: Trenchcoat

updated 03/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

The opening shot of Margot Kidder shows her hands on a typewriter; in Robert Hays' first scene, he's trying to hustle a stewardess at cruising altitude. Is director Michael Tuchner, who did the TV version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Anthony Hopkins, trying to hint he's dealing with the high-flying comedy potency of Superman I and II and Airplane! I and II? Sorry, Mike, Trench-coat, despite its, pardon the expression, flashes of offbeat humor, has trouble just getting off the ground. Kidder is a court stenographer who's dying to write a novel. So she flies to Malta in search of some experience—and gets caught in a web of multinational terrorism involving two murders and some pilfered plutonium. Hays, ostensibly an M.D., eventually reveals a clandestine identity once he and Kidder are hot on the trail. The story starts out low-key, but by the last half hour the plot, craftily unfurled by writers Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman, does pick up pace. Kidder looks great even in her nebbishy comedic gags; Hays plays his deadpan hunk about as unimpressively as he could and still register on film. Best scene: After receiving a shot of sodium pentathol from some kidnapping Arabs, Kidder gets out of that jam. But then she finds herself unwittingly betraying what has been a heartily sublimated love interest in Hays, after he picks her up and takes her on a picnic. Kidder survives enough close calls to inspire her novel, with material for a short story or two left over. All of that cliff-hanging also serves to enliven the proceedings, and it almost makes you forget how long the film took to really get going. (PG)

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