Picks and Pans Review: American Dreamer

updated 11/05/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/05/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

With some movies, you have to check your brain at the door. With American Dreamer, you'd better check your calendar too. This romantic comedy comes on like the most lighthearted lark of 1954. It shamelessly embraces the values (production, moral and others) of Eisenhower-era filmmaking: It's an American-in-Paris story, featuring the fulfillment of housewife fantasies, amnesia and a parade of costume changes approaching a fashion show. About the only things missing are Thelma Ritter and a Doris Day song on the sound track. Borrowing its opening from Romancing the Stone (which itself shoplifted from the classic Sullivan's Travels), the movie begins with a murder-on-a-train sequence that is really a figment of heroine Cathy Palmer's imagination. Played with little of her usual panache by JoBeth Williams, Cathy is a shlumpy Ohio housewife who turns her daydreams into the winning entry in a romance-novel contest. She wins a trip to Paris, which she takes solo against the wishes of her overbearing husband. Knocked unconscious in a car accident, Williams awakens to the belief that she is a romance-novel heroine who is everything that Cathy is not. Through a series of misunderstandings that would challenge even the credulity of Lucy Ricardo, Williams winds up with Tom Conti, an Englishman living in Paris. Conti doesn't have much of a part; it's the befuddled Dudley Moore role without the obligatory piano sequence. Director Rick (Bad Boys) Rosenthal takes the '50s sitcom idiocies of the script and italicizes them—when sabotage would serve him better. Can he really pass this off as '80s sophistication when any episode of Dynasty out-glosses, outwits and outsexes this film? American Dreamer is the sort of Ross Hunter dream-come-true escapade that became obsolete the moment feminists went into the streets and Paris went condo. (PG)

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