Picks and Pans Review: Ladyhawke

updated 04/22/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/22/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

Once upon a time there was a $21 million movie that wanted to make medieval romance compelling for a contemporary audience. It had castles and jousts and evil curses and lots of talk about meeting one's destiny. It had great-looking sets and Italian scenery (you know a movie's in trouble when people tell you how great the scenery and sets are). It even had a fantastical plot about the tortured love between a beautiful maiden, Michelle (Into the Night) Pfeiffer and her noble soldier-lover, Rutger (Blade Runner) Hauer. Because a hypocritical bishop loves the lady, he puts a curse on her and the soldier, which keeps the pair "always together, eternally apart." During the daylight hours Pfeiffer is transformed into a hawk who must accompany her lover on his shoulder. After the sun sets she returns to human form, but Hauer takes on the shape of a wolf. Despite the pomp and pageantry of Ladyhawke, the concept is inadvertently kinky instead of cosmic, since it's not exactly romantic to watch a moon-eyed fellow nuzzle a hawk. The plot also muzzles the actors, who must do most of their emoting with animals; they don't have anything to react to except howls and chirps. While Matthew (WarGames) Broderick has top billing, the script treats him like a peripheral character, a young thief who serves as a messenger for the lovers. Director Richard Donner and screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz (who co-authored this script with Edward Khmara and Michael Thomas) brought an engaging note of skepticism to their previous pop-legend collaboration, Superman, but their touch here is humorless. Ladyhawke is a damsel in distress only a sorcerer could salvage. (PG-13)

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