Picks and Pans Review: Lost in America
A Los Angeles couple give up their high-paying jobs, drop out of society and head across the country in a motor home. They're determined, says director/co-writer/star Albert Brooks, to find themselves and "touch Indians." What ensues, however, is not a comedic journey but a 91-minute ego trip for Brooks. He is onscreen almost the whole time, and he has not only given himself the best lines but also nearly all the lines. Though he's often funny in his backhanded, skewed, bitter way, his comedy has no focus. It's not clear whether the materialistic world that he has left behind or the dull wilderness he's entered is being lampooned by his preachy monologues. The only clear theme has to do with nostalgia for the Peter Fonda-Jack Nicholson-Dennis Hopper film Easy Rider, which is mentioned so often that its plot becomes clearer than Lost in America's. Julie (Airplane!) Hagerty plays Brooks' wife to no great effect, though in her defense it must be said that Mother Teresa could have shown up in this role and nobody would have noticed, so overbearing is Brooks. Among the supporting cast, only producer-director Garry Marshall (Laverne and Shirley, The Flamingo Kid), in a rare acting gig, has any impact; he is cast as a Las Vegas casino manager whom Brooks tries to con into refunding money Hagerty has lost. Most of the film seems as lightly conceived as if the script were written on a napkin at lunch. At one point Brooks is stopped for speeding by an Arizona cop; when the cop learns of Brooks' passion for Easy Rider he lets him go. The scene is typical, one long straight line waiting for a punch that never comes. It's as if Brooks is saying, "A funny thing happened to me on the way to this movie, but I'm not going to tell you what it was." (R)
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