Picks and Pans Review: Wind

updated 09/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Matthew Modine, Jennifer Grey, Rebecca Miller, Cliff Robertson, Jack Thompson, Stellan Skarsgård

Here is that ill Wind we've always heard about—the one that blows nobody good.

Dead in the water from the start, it is dull and confusing even by the standards of movie sports epics.

Its focus is the America's Cup series of races—that international yachting competition in which rich brats in shamefully expensive sailboats sail in circles, nattering about the prissy rules of sail-racing etiquette. That the Cup's convoluted elimination rules are never explained is only one of the disservices director Carroll (The Black Stallion) Ballard does his movie and his audience. He makes a big deal of a number of rule violations without explaining them either. For instance, when Modine, steering the American boat, bumps into a buoy, it leads to defeat, but it is never clear why this trivial event should be decisive.

Then there's the erratic romance between Modine and Grey (Dirty Dancing). Early on they seem to be at least engaged. Then, all of a sudden, Grey, playing an aeronautical engineer who is also an amateur sailor, is nuzzling Skarsgård (The Hunt for Red October), a Danish actor of no unique skills that would warrant casting him as an American in this film. Skarsgård then becomes Modine's partner in designing a sleek new boat that will enable him to make up for his gaffe in losing the Cup.

Robertson, in another of his Kahuna mentor roles, is the endearingly crotchety, aging American captain who coaches Modine. The engagingly vivacious Miller (Regarding Henry), real-life daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and photographer Inge Morath, plays Robertson's debutantish daughter, who helps Modine and Skarsgård raise money for the comeback.

Australian star Thompson (Breaker Morant) is the skipper of the Aussie boat that opposes Modine's. He's supposed to be the villain, but he never seems that unlikable.

Far from getting swept up in what ought to be the climactic, emotional race between Modine and Thompson, you'll probably be wishing something exciting would happen. (Those U-boats and great white sharks are never around when you need them.)

Many of those who watched ESPN's coverage of the real America's Cup competition this spring thought nothing could be more boring. Wrong. (PG-13)

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