Picks and Pans Review: Forever Young

updated 12/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/21/1992 AT 01:00 AM EST

Mel Gibson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Isabel Glasser, Elijah Wood

No question: The best part of Forever Young is discovering—thanks to an unusually convincing aging job—that Gibson is likely to remain disarmingly good-looking, if not forever, then at least For a Very Long Time. Not that the requisite flash of Gibson's flesh (yes, we do once again glimpse his bum) is the only reason to see this film. Gibson won't wow the Lethal Weapon crowd with the whoops and swoops he executes as a daredevil Air Corps test pilot in 1939. But his 50-year adventure in loss and love will warm those who wept at, say, Always and E.T.

And this movie is one long strum on the heartstrings. Before Gibson can find the words, and courage, to propose to his longtime flame, Glasser, she is gravely injured in an accident, and he takes her for dead. (Think where great drama would be if impetuous sorts like Gibson—to say nothing of Romeo—had only displayed a lad more patience.) Distraught, Gibson enlists the help of his scientist buddy, played endearingly by the ever enormous George Wendt, to administer a rather radical coping therapy: a deep freeze. Gibson intends to chill out for one year, but something goes wrong, and he doesn't actually warm to life until more than five decades later, when a fatherless boy, Wood, stumbles upon him and unwittingly leads him home.

It is frustrating that Gibson has less chemistry with Glasser, the object of his every passion, than with Curtis, Wood's spunky-sweet mother. (From the moment Curtis tries to entice Gibson to stay to breakfast, and maybe more, saying, "I'm a hell of a defroster," you guiltily hope she'll be the one walking off into the sunset.) In the end, though, the most touching union involves neither woman but rather the bond forged between Gibson and Wood, a gentle young actor who stirs sympathy without summoning the usual kid-sap. Aching for a father figure, Wood turns to the initially stiff Gibson to teach him everything from flirting to flying. In return, Wood delivers to his friend both a kinship Gibson has never known and the one love his heart has forever been seeking. (PG-13)

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