Picks and Pans Review: Jumpin'jack Flash

updated 10/27/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/27/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Whoopi Goldberg has massive amounts of personality, every ounce of which she has to call upon to make this picture what it is: a pleasantly diverting, affable adventure comedy. Eyes rolling, body flouncing, dander rising, she is onscreen almost continuously, playing a bank computer operator who inadvertently gets involved in a spy case. (A British agent trapped in Eastern Europe patches into her international line and asks for help.) As people like Bob Hope and Woody Allen have shown, comedy and international politics are perfectly compatible; as people like Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd have shown, that compatibility is not always easy to demonstrate. Goldberg has to overcome some handicaps. The film's four writers couldn't, for instance, think of anything else for her to do but scream a lot of the time. She also can hardly get through a line of dialogue without tossing in a pointless obscenity, which can hardly amuse anyone with any sense and is likely to alienate many people. Director Penny Marshall, who directed a number of Laverne and Shirley episodes but has never done a feature before, acted a little like all those Chicago Bear coaches who for years didn't do much of anything except make sure the ball got into Walter Payton's hands. They might not have won any championships that way, but they did make things fairly entertaining. While there's a considerable amount of talent in the supporting cast—Carol Kane, John Wood, Stephen Collins, Annie Potts—they have hardly anything to do. It's almost wholly up to Goldberg, and even for those long stretches when she is just sitting at her terminal trading messages with the spy, she keeps a ferocious hold on the audience's attention, and their affection. Her performance is the very definition of star quality. (R)

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