Picks and Pans Review: Water

updated 05/05/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/05/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Michael Caine makes movies almost as often as other people go to them. He began 1986 with one of his best, Hannah and Her Sisters, and in the next months we'll see the "cockney Cary Grant" in Sweet Liberty, Half Moon Street, The Whistle Blower and The Fourth Protocol. However well or bad these films turn out, you can always count on Caine. In Water, a Monty Pythonesque political satire, he plays Baxter Thwaites, governor of Cascara, a forgotten British colony in the Caribbean. When the Gov isn't testing the local marijuana crop or warding off his hysterical Guatemalan wife (deliciously overplayed by Brenda Vaccaro), he's dictating futile pleas for financial aid to Margaret Thatcher. It seems Cascara is a wasteland. The inhabitants are descended mostly from shipwreck victims (the national anthem is a hymn to the breaststroke that brought them there) or from the local minister (Fulton MacKay), who provided the women of his parish with more than spiritual comfort. But Caine sees his chance to end the island's tropical torpor when an American oil company's long-abandoned drilling well starts spewing out water. Not just any water. This lemony fizz is a match for Perrier. Suddenly business interests from America and Cuba are inciting a revolution to cadge bottling rights. With the help of ecologist Valerie Perrine, Caine sides with the natives against Whitehall's avaricious minister, hilariously played by the late Leonard Rossiter of TV's The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Sneers Rossiter (and no one sneered better) to Caine: "You've become the Patty Hearst of the British Diplomatic Corps." If only laughs like this weren't so often followed by boredom. Director and co-writer Dick (Bullshot) Clement can't keep Water above the ragtag level. But Hand Made Films (whose co-founder George Harrison does a singing cameo) should be celebrated for financing films (The Long Good Friday, A Private Function) that don't play it safe. And while we're celebrating, let's raise one to Caine—an actor who is never less than a class act. (PG-13)

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