Picks and Pans Review: Matinee

updated 02/08/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/08/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST

John Goodman, Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton

It lakes a long time to load the cargo for takeoff in this comedy set during the Cuban missile crisis. But when the satire finally takes wing, Matinee has its pleasures, however brief.

The genial Goodman is a sci-fi impresario in the mold of William Castle, the director of such gimmicky, campy classics as 1958's House on Haunted Hill and 1959's The Tingler. As Matinee begins, he is arriving in Key West, Fla., with his sardonic girlfriend and leading lady (the terrific Moriarty) for the premiere of Mant ("half man...half ant...all terror," heralds the poster), an opus he hopes will prove a worthy successor to his recent boffo The Eyes of Dr. Diablo.

The town's proximity to Cuba has sent the citizenry into a swivet—the perfect atmosphere, figures Goodman, to release a movie about atomic power run amok. Not that he's leaving anything to chance. Goodman parades Moriarty as a nurse—in case any young viewers become stricken by fright—and announces that his film will be presented in "Atomo-Vision," to give audiences that "you are there" feeling. No one is more eager for the opening than adolescent horror movie bull and military brat Fenton, whose father is serving on a boat in the Cuban blockade.

Matinee is at its antic best in the movie-within-the-movie framework—the unspooling of the hilarious Mant ("I wish you'd be a man and put the insect aside," Moriarty, playing a beleaguered wife, tells her metamorphosed mate. "Insecticide?" he gasps in reply). As for the several pointless subplots—among them a romance between Fenton's pretty classmate and her beat-poet beau—they should have been dealt a few stern blows with a fly-swatter. (PG)

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