Picks and Pans Review: Christine

updated 01/09/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/09/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

Hell has no Fury like a Plymouth scorned, or so it would seem from director John (The Thing) Carpenter's adaptation of the scary Stephen King novel. This movie, about a car that runs amok, never gets into gear, though. The car, a version of the Plymouth model so popular for its sweeping fins, starts acting up on the assembly line, where it chomps an inspector's hand and then kills another autoworker who dares flick an ash on its upholstery. Flash forward 20 years to California, where Christine (the car had been nicknamed by its mysteriously dead owner) sits in a weed-filled lot. A passing teenager, Keith (Dressed to Kill) Gordon, spies it and falls in love. He fixes up the car and himself: No longer the class nerd, he gets the most desirable girl in school, Katharine Ross look-alike Alexandra Paul. Then the class bullies trash Christine, which is a mistake, since she has a habit of cruising around at night, driverless and in a bad mood. Technically, the film is slick: At one point, Christine repairs herself before her owner's disbelieving eyes. Still, Carpenter has failed to make her as scary as, say, the truck in Steven Spielberg's 1971 movie Duel. (She does have it all over the villain of 1977's The Car.) The mood is often broken by insipid philosophizing; Gordon is stuck with an embarrassing speech about the heartbreak of being a twerp. Christine is not quite a lemon, but it's nobody's dream vehicle either. (R)

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