Picks and Pans Review: Movers & Shakers

updated 05/27/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/27/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Movers & Shakers assembles Walter Matthau and Vincent Gardenia as aging, mediocre Hollywood producers, Charles Grodin as a hypochondriac, blocked screenwriter, Bill (Maude) Macy as a lunatic director and Steve Martin as a face-lifted matinee idol of yesteryear. Even if it weren't sharply satirical, at least it could have been funny. But this is a case of disappointed expectations. The movie starts with the deathbed promise Matthau makes to his mentor, Gardenia. Gardenia wants Matthau to "make something great, make something about something," and he wants it to be titled Love in Sex, after a best-selling how-to manual. Matthau hires the ingratiating Grodin and a spacy Macy to figure out what such a film might be about. Grodin and Macy decide Love in Sex should be Up, Happy and Romantic, but they write no dialogue and shoot no scenes, since their own personal relationships are on the rocks. Tyne (Cagney & Lacey) Daly over-anxiously plays Grodin's frustrated, humorless wife. Gilda Radner whines and shrieks her way through her role as Macy's overbearing, violent girlfriend. (She does supply the film's only really funny sight gag when, on her way to an appointment, she nervously places facial tissues under her bare arms to absorb perspiration.) After months of creative desperation, Matthau, Grodin and Macy finally seek out the advice of legendary celluloid lover Fabio Longio—Steve Martin in a powdered pompadour and rubbery makeup. Martin's simpering advice is that "women want to conquer as well as feel conquered." He should know, since his live-in girlfriend turns out to be a negligee-and-feathers-bedecked Penny Marshall, who outwhines and outshrieks even Radner. The women in Movers & Shakers, portrayed as irredeemable harridans or sexual piranhas, are typical of this movie's insipid, outdated humor. Screenwriter Grodin and director William Asher (known for his 1960s beach movies, e.g., How to Stuff a Wild Bikini) don't seem to realize that jokes about "boggy" prostates, bulk-rate face-lifts and male befuddlement over women aren't enough to make a movie, not even a movie about Hollywood. The promotion for this film bills it as a "comedy about a movie which doesn't get made." Would that Movers & Shakers had met with the same fate. (PG)

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