Picks and Pans Review: Best Defense

UPDATED 07/30/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/30/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

Surprisingly, for a comedy about the weapons trade, Best Defense has not kept its eye on its targets. This is a tale about a little tank that couldn't shoot. But director Willard (French Postcards) Huyck, who co-wrote the script with his wife, Gloria Katz, indiscriminately aims for whatever passes in front of his lens—without hitting a laugh. Seeking sanctuary in lowest-common-denominator humor, this noisy comedy turns into a celebration of sexism in the workplace and racism in the field. Huyck's unfocused direction leaves the actors stranded. As the down-and-out engineer who stumbles upon plans for a top-rank tank, Dudley Moore drifts through the movie. His character is a cad, and Moore doesn't even bother to soften him, as he did in "10" and Arthur. In the role of his sexy and lascivious supervisor, Helen Shaver only promotes the stereotype of the predatory woman. The movie's major miscalculation is Eddie Murphy, who is billed as "strategic guest star." Playing an Army lieutenant manning Moore's tank in Kuwait, Murphy cannot unleash his put-upon-black routine. This time he's not the victim of discrimination; those humiliations are relegated to his two Middle Eastern trainees cum lackeys, who could be Arab descendants of the Three Stooges. Without a plot that suits his persona, Murphy looks lost. This misbegotten movie is out of the Deal of the Century school of comedy; its moral seems to be that the best defense is constant offensiveness. (R)

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