Picks and Pans Review: Cloak & Dagger

updated 08/20/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/20/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In the caper comedies of not so long ago, the elusive object of desire was usually a fabled gem. Nowadays it's a computer program. Like Best Defense, this fumble-fingered adventure pivots upon stolen software secrets. Although officially an updated remake of The Window, a 1949 suspense movie starring Bobby Driscoll, Cloak & Dagger plays more like the bastard child of War-Games and a Hitchcock homage. Henry (E.T.) Thomas is a gadget-crazed kid who indulges in game playing, fantasy and the companionship of an imaginary spy, Dabney (TV's Buffalo Bill) Coleman. As a surrogate father figure, Coleman delivers the advice and affection Thomas doesn't get from his real dad, a preoccupied Air Force officer, also played by Coleman. When Thomas stumbles upon a real-life spy ring, he becomes the high-tech equivalent of the boy who cried wolf. Director Richard Franklin, who made 1983's Psycho II, is more entranced by the scenery of San Antonio, where the film was shot, than the Hitchcock allusions of Tom (also Psycho II) Holland's script. Cloak & Dagger is the story of Thomas' rite of passage. When he becomes his own man, he casts off his imaginary pal and learns to appreciate his dad. But like a lot of adolescent comedies, this one sabotages its own theme. Since there isn't a brainy adult in the film, why would anybody want to grow up? Other movies can get away with pandering to kids through condescending portraits of adults—but not a movie that makes maturity its grand finale. Thomas' performance reflects a likable combination of intelligence and vulnerability. But Coleman just coasts on his insensitive cad shtick, and most of the time Cloak & Dagger merely insinuates that growing up is the most egregious kind of child's play. (PG)


This 1967 film, the last animated feature Walt Disney worked on before he died, was loosely based on the Mowgli stories of Rudyard Kipling. It featured the voices of Phil Harris as Baloo, the scat-singing bear, Sebastian Cabot as the stuffy panther Bagheera, George Sanders as the tyrannical tiger Shere Khan, Sterling Holloway as the python Kaa and Bruce Reitherman, son of director Wolfgang Reitherman, as Mowgli. With the movie currently in re-release, critic Ralph Novak and his son, Thaddeus, 4, saw it at a northern New Jersey theater, then went home to tape the following review.

Ralph: What did you think of that movie?

Thaddeus: Fine.

R: What parts did you like best?

T: I liked all of it, really. The part with Baloo and that boy was great. That's the part I'm gonna talk about. But let's do that after dinner so we don't have to talk and eat at the same time. (After dinner)

R: So, how did you like the music in The Jungle Book?

T: The music was good, too.

R: What was your favorite song?

T: The Bare Necessities. Baloo sang that.

R: What did you think of that tiger?

T: Not very bad.

R: Was he scary?

T: No way. I wasn't scared.

R: Did you like the little boy?

T: Very nice. Especially with the bear.

R: Was there any part of the movie you didn't like?

T: The part where that tiger tries to trick the snake into giving him the boy. But he wouldn't.

R: Why didn't you like that part?

T: Because it wasn't very nice to want to eat a boy.

R: What did you think of those monkeys?

T: Very fine.

R: What did you think was the funniest part?

T: The monkeys trying to trick the boy into being a monkey.

R: If you told your friend Zachary about this movie, what would you say?

T: I would say, "Nice movie, Zack." (G)

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