Picks and Pans Review: Lost in Yonkers

updated 05/17/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/17/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Irene Worth, Mercedes Ruehl, Richard Dreyfuss

Fans of Neil Simon will find it painless to sit through this adaptation of his Pulitzer-prizewinning play. Those less keen on Doc's work will find it pointless. Nonfans know they have seen this shtick and these characters before, albeit under slightly different circumstances.

In this case, the time is the early 1940s and the place is a New York City suburb. The movie's 15-year-old narrator (Brad Stoll) and his younger brother (Mike Damus) are left with their grandmother (Worth) while their widower father (Jack Laufer) goes off on a distant job. Worth, owner of a candy store, is by no means your traditional sweet old granny. Her spirit—and leg—irrevocably damaged in a childhood accident, she has a gimlet eye and a terrible swift sword. Sharing the space above the store is Worth's daughter (Ruehl), who, to put it nicely, is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Worth's gruff but lovable son, a small-time gangster (Dreyfuss), also makes appearances when it gets too hot on the outside, putting his adoring nephews to work for him and teaching them the full meaning of the word moxie.

The movie focuses mainly on the relationship between Ruehl and the Teutonic, unfeeling Worth, and on Ruerhl's wistful romance with a mentally impaired usher at the local theater. Unfortunately, Lost In Yonkers is bereft of an anchoring point of view or an emotional center. There is, to be sure, plenty of emotion—ranting, sobbing, soul-baring—but nothing to give direction to a movie lost in rhetoric. (PG)

From Our Partners