Picks and Pans Review: The Meteor Man

updated 08/23/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/23/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Robert Townsend, Marla Gibbs, Robert Guillaume, Roy Fegan

It is a measure of the charm of Town-send, the good-natured writer-director-star of this unfocused, capricious film, that he makes it not only tolerable but often enjoyable.

He plays a Milquetoasty Washington inner-city teacher who is hit by a meteorite and transformed into a superhero. As soon as he realizes he can fly, catch bullets, see through walls and talk with dogs, Townsend starts rousting a bizarre street gang with yellow-dyed hair that has infested his neighborhood.

As a spoof, the film is dull and without impact. As a superhero adventure, it's too silly. Townsend, at least, never takes himself too seriously, and the cast is full of big-name personalities, most of them with few, if any, lines. Singer Nancy Wilson plays an officious school principal, singer Luther Vandross is a hit man, model Beverly Johnson is a doctor (!) who treats Townsend after the meteorite hits him, and Bill Cosby mugs excessively even by his standards as a homeless' man who seems to share Townsend's superpowers and helps fight the punks. There is also a horde of rappers (whom only hard-core fans will recognize) as gang members.

If Spike Lee is all attitude and no sense of humor or playfulness, Townsend is all playfulness and no attitude, for better or worse. In this case, it's for the better—slightly. (PG)

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