Picks and Pans Review: 50

updated 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Avery Corman

The author of Oh, God! and Kramer vs. Kramer is back with another vapid novel about a New Yorker having a typical (read cliché-ridden) family crisis. The hero, Doug Gardner, is a columnist for a national sports newspaper that gets bought out by a hot-shot Houston takeover artist. Although Gardner's features are the most popular in the paper, the new owner insists that he write what the marketing experts say the people want to read. Gardner rebels, is fired and takes a job promoting sports tie-ins for corporations. Meanwhile, Gardner still loves Susan, his beautiful, fashion-crazy former wife, even though they are long divorced. He has his two children (perfect kids, like all New York City children of divorced parents) two weeks at a time, and there is never enough money for private school tuition, ski jackets and shoes. Gardner dates around. He likes Nancy, but Ann is classy, with the right business contacts and a rich, dotty mother who likes to play croquet with Gardner. In the promotion business Gardner moves into the big money, but that old devil—happiness—is elusive. Not only is he facing the big five-o, but his father in Florida dies of a heart attack, and Gardner has to scatter the old man's ashes back in New York. Corman strains to be funny, but many scenes, especially those at the end, are milked shamelessly for tears. Maybe real big-time sportswriters are sentimental slobs and as simpleminded as Doug Gardner. But a novel about one ought to have some bite to it, while 50—whose movie rights have already been bought by Kramer vs. Kramer director Sydney Pollack—is just treacle for the toothless. (Simon and Schuster, $17.95)

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