Picks and Pans Review: True Lies

updated 07/25/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/25/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tia Carrere, Eliza Dushku, Tom Arnold, Art Malik, Bill Paxton

Like a simultaneous Bond film and Mel Brooks Bond parody, this action comedy is fast, flashy, furious and funny, a uniquely entertaining combination of whacky and wacky.

Schwarzenegger plays an ace field operative for an antiterrorist U.S. intelligence agency. His wife, Curtis, thinks he is just a salesman who travels a lot.

When Arnold suspects Curtis of having an affair with Paxton, a used car salesman who pretends he's a spy to impress women, Schwarzenegger starts following her, using his agency friends and techniques. That gets everybody involved in a plot by a group of H-bomb-packing Arab terrorists led by Malik and supplied by Carrere.

Schwarzenegger is hardly a subtle actor, but within the confines of his excessive style, he insinuates himself smoothly into the often ironic script by his old Terminator collaborator, director James Cameron. Curtis too sells the film's vacillation between farce and fracas, seeming athletic enough to cold-cock Arnold and sexy enough to turn him on with a seductive dance.

With Malik and Carrere generating reprehensible villainy without ever seeming truly hateful and Dushku showing a Mayim Bialik-like maturity as the couple's teenage daughter, the film's only weak points are its length—2 hours and 21 minutes—and the amateurish performance of the overeager Tom Arnold as Schwarzenegger's agency partner. Cameron's script is often ingenious and always original. The stunt work is dazzling.

Terrific software. Terrific hardware. Terrific film. (R)

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