Picks and Pans Review: A New Life

updated 04/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more Mr. Sensitive. No more Mr. Even Remotely Tolerable for More than Five Seconds at a Time. This is Alan Alda—writer, director and star—as an unremittingly abrasive malcontent. He's so abrasive you could use him to file your nails—the kind you pound with hammers, not the kind at the ends of your fingers. His is the most difficult to watch movie character since Eric Roberts played Paul Snider in Star 80, and that guy was a psychotic murderer. This is theoretically a comedy. Alda plays a New York stock trader. He complains about his wife, Ann-Margret, who is divorcing him. He complains about service in restaurants, about his job, about society in general. His most endearing trait is that he puts red pepper on everything he eats, including ice cream. He and best friend Hal (Barney Miller) Linden bicker constantly and when they're not bickering with each other, they bicker with other friends or passersby. Watching their snarly arguments has all the charm of watching an ant war. The women characters fare better. Ann-Margret is the long-suffering wife, Mary Kay (The Big Chill) Place her best friend. Veronica (Hill Street Blues) Hamel plays a bright, sensitive doctor who is unaccountably attracted to the loutish Alda when she treats him for a fainting spell. Alec Mapa does become sort of sympathetic in a small role when he victimizes both Alda and Linden in separate events designed to create a hilarious coincidence. Then again, a comedy is in wretched shape when its only sympathetic male character is a transvestite-hooker-mugger. (PG-13)

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