Like a montage of bad memories, this lame mismatch comedy-cum-antismoking commercial conjures up the worst aspects of Mrs. Doubtfire, Made in America, House of Cards, Jungle Fever and the old TV series The Courtship of Eddie's Father. If it weren't for the saving grace of 9-year-old Majorino, the movie wouldn't have any grace at all.
Liotta is a jingle writer whose wife has just died, leaving him to raise their daughter (Majorino), who has gone mute in reaction to her mother's death. Writer-director Jessie Nelson plunders The Fabulous Baker Boys for its audition scene as Liotta interviews a series of inappropriate candidates for the job of Majorino's nanny. One is Joan Cu-sack, whose talents are wasted in what's little more than a walk-on.
Nelson also all but ignores the presence of comic Larry Miller, as Liotta's best friend, in his haste to cultivate the inevitable but slow-blooming interracial romance between Goldberg and Liotta.
Goldberg and Majorino, who played Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia's daughter in When a Man Loves a Woman, charm their way through a series of scenes in which Goldberg introduces the little girl to not only the joys of vacuuming but such elements of the black community as gospel choirs.
Liotta maintains his uniquely soothing, calm presence, and Goldberg is likable, yet this is a match made in Hollywood, not heaven. The sparks they strike would hardly ignite a gasoline-soaked pile of tissue paper.
Nelson also throws a pall over his film by portraying Majorino as obsessed by the fear that Liotta's and Goldberg's heavy smoking is going to kill them.
Don Ameche appears briefly as Liotta's father. This was Ameche's last film; let's not hold it against him. (PG)