Picks and Pans Review: Rustlers' Rhapsody

UPDATED 05/20/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/20/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

If this Western spoof piles up too many paid admissions (which is doubtful), a lot of reputations will be torpedoed. Tom Berenger—remember how funny he was as the Tom Selleck-type TV hero in The Big Chill?—is an actor sinking in a quagmire of bum jokes. Berenger plays Rex O'Herlihan, a singing cowboy presumably modeled on Roy Rogers, since Rex always wears white, shoots only at the gun hand and possesses the libido of a slug. In the opening scene (shot in black and white) we're told by the narrator that O'Herlihan starred in 52 cowboy movies between 1938 and 1947. What if those films had been made today? asks the irritating, disembodied voice. Then the picture widens, fills with glorious color, and the action (filmed in Spain) commences. Mel Brooks pulled off this sort of revisionist raunchiness in Blazing Saddles, but writer-director Hugh (Police Academy) Wilson is no Brooks. It's hard to figure out what Wilson is doing, except telling his actors to smirk a lot after delivering a line, to allow time for the audience to laugh. Here's a sampling of the thigh slappers: At a saloon, Berenger, wanting to appear tough, orders "warm gin with a human hair in it." Our hero is taunted with the name "Prairie Fairy," and even another good guy, played by the Duke's son, Patrick Wayne, questions Rex's status as a "confident heterosexual." The gay subtheme doesn't stop at one-liners. Andy Griffith returns to movies after 10 years to play a villainous colonel with a beautiful daughter (former model Sela Ward) and a yen for his cowboy henchmen. The reputations tarnished here don't stop with Berenger, Griffith and Wayne (who taints the memory of his father, as well). G.W. Bailey (Dr. Beale on St. Elsewhere) overacts shamelessly as the town drunk. Fernando Rey (a glory in the cinema of Bunuel and Wertmuller) rolls his eyes like a clown for hire as a railroad baron. Marilu (Taxi) Henner is onscreen so briefly as a saloon gal that charitable audiences might forget she was in the movie at all. For the rest, forgiveness comes hard. The producer was David Giler, who once turned out such estimable entertainments as Alien and The Parallax View. Couldn't he have put us all out of our misery? They still shelve movies, don't they? (PG)

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