Picks and Pans Review: The Fly

updated 08/25/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/25/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

For half this movie, Jeff Goldblum appears to be the first horror film actor in more than 50 years to have a chance at an Oscar (Fredric March was nominated for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1932 and shared the award with Wallace Beery, for The Champ). In a remake of the 1958 chiller about a scientist who gradually turns into a man-size insect after botching an experiment, Goldblum demonstrates a tantalizing blend of manic enthusiasm, self-deprecating whimsy and intelligence. If Dr. Frankenstein had had this much common sense, he would have settled for inventing the toaster and saved everyone a lot of trouble. Even when Goldblum starts to transform—to the chagrin of his smartly played journalist-girlfriend, Geena (Fletch) Davis—he manages to communicate some humanity behind his increasingly monstrous exterior. The film disintegrates, though, when co-writer-director David (Videodrome) Cronenberg starts to live up to his reputation for never letting too much be enough. His intent seems to have been to make the film as nauseating as possible. Every detail of a fly's digestive system is discussed, and by way of audiovisual aids, Goldblum vomits acid all over the place. When Goldblum's human fingernails fall off, Cronenberg dwells on the scene, as he does when Goldblum starts to eat someone's leg. The fact is, of course, that any dolt could fill a movie with sickening stuff, and there's nothing scary, funny or interesting about what Cronenberg has done. It is just tedious and insulting. Get the swatter. (R)

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