Picks and Pans Review: Cocktail

updated 08/08/1988 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/08/1988 01:00AM

There's no denying the dazzle of Tom (The Color of Money) Cruise's megawatt smile. But even Tom's peerless pearlies can't blind us to the fact that this is a low-grade Saturday Night Fever with bars subbing for discos. Cruise plays a poor kid from Queens who chucks his business courses at City College to cadge quick bucks and quicker sex as a bartender on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Bryan (F/X) Brown, in the film's only noteworthy performance, is an old pro who shows him the saloon ropes. Screenwriter Heywood Gould, adapting his own novel, worked as a bartender in the early 1970s, but the movie still feels bogus. Cruise and Brown toss bottles around like jugglers, lead the customers in poetry readings and trade quips about bedding bitches (the film takes a nasty view of women). The teeming singles bar scene belongs to the pre-AIDS era. And the love story between Cruise and bland Elisabeth (Adventures in Babysitting) Shue, as a waitress whose heart he breaks during a sojourn in Jamaica, belongs to 1930s melodrama. Cruise gets Shue pregnant and deserts her. But is Tom really bad? Nah. Back in New York, he learns that Shue is an heiress and proves his love when he rips up her daddy's $10,000 buy-the-bum-off check. Director Roger Donaldson, whose work can be dandy (Smash Palace) or deplorable (The Bounty), has his hack hat on this time. The scene where Cruise bawls while reading a farewell letter from Brown is so crude it wins unintended laughs. As if realizing that his star hasn't smiled for 15 minutes, Donaldson tacks on a goody-goody ending that would shame the Care Bears. How to sum up what went wrong? Cruise has a line in the movie: "Flat beer from rusty pipes." Good call. (R)

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