Picks and Pans Review: The Dark Half

updated 05/03/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/03/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Timothy Hutton, Amy Madigan, Michael Rooker, Julie Harris

To get the invidious comparisons out of the way: Stephen King is no Robert Louis Stevenson; Hutton is no Spencer Tracy; Madigan is no Ingrid Bergman; and director George Romero is no Victor Fleming. In short, we know Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and this would-be chiller is no Jekyll and Hyde.

Romero adapted the film from King's novel, which is another of his tales about how painful it is to make truckloads of money for writing schlock novels when you were really destined to write War and Peace.

In this case, Hutton is a New England writer who, after his serious books flop, churns out best-selling sadistic detective novels under a pseudonym. When he tries to kill off the alter ego by not using the name anymore, it rebels and starts murdering people.

Romero drains the potential mystery from his film by showing early on that the murderer is the alter ego—basically, Hutton with Elvis sideburns.

Hutton, not exactly on a career roll with this and The Temp both blotting his escutcheon this year, is his stolid, dispassionate self in the dual role. The only interesting casting comes with Harris, in Geraldine Page mode, as the librarian at a small college where Hutton teaches a writing course. (R)

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