Picks and Pans Review: In the Mood

updated 10/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/12/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The year was 1944 and war-weary Americans were ready to read about something other than combat. Fifteen-year-old Sonny Wisecarver, who ran away with two married women in succession, was a perfect something. Through two trials and imprisonment for violating probation, he became a media sensation, sharing headlines with Hitler. Somehow, however, that wonderfully melodramatic true story has become a listless movie. Wisecarver, passively played by Patrick (Can't Buy Me Love) Dempsey, was known as "The Woo Woo Kid" for his courting techniques. But we're only told about them. We get no sense of the teenage savoir faire that could make a 21-year-old mother of two, Talia (TV's Consenting Adults) Balsam, tell reporters, "You take Sinatra and have yourself a swoon. I'll take Sonny Wisecarver." Or why the 25-year-old wife of a Marine, Beverly D'Angelo, who gives the movie much-needed raunch, would say, "He was more a man at 15 than most men are at 35." And it wasn't because of unusual endowment; Wisecarver's penis was measured by court order and ruled normal. (Most court scenes are from transcripts.) The only thing notable about In the Mood is the mood itself: The re-creation of '40s California is first rate. But in writer-director Phil (All of Me) Robinson's attempt to stick to the truth, the movie plays more like a documentary than the satirical tale of out-raged sexual convention it should have been. (PG-13)

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