Picks and Pans Review: Son-in-Law

updated 07/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/05/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Pauly Shore, Carla Gugino, Cindy Pickett, Lane Smith

Under no circumstances should you confuse this film with The In-Laws, the comedy written by Andrew Bergman, directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Alan Arkin and Peter Falk. That 1979 film had wit, style and charm, all qualities that this snail-paced farce lacks by the barrelful.

Producers Michael Rotenberg and Peter Lenkov's first mistake lay in casting as the title character Shore, MTV's dork-in-residence. He is less an actor than an attitude with legs.

He plays a resident adviser at at California college who is unaccountably befriended by Gugino, a freshman from South Dakota. Over the Thanksgiving break, she takes him home to her family's farm, where her parents, Pickett and Smith, are understandably appalled at her taste in friends. Then, in a convoluted, never funny series of misunderstandings, Gugino and Shore become engaged.

Director Steve Rash and writers Fax Bahr, Adam Small and Shawn Schepps handle this not hopeless premise maladroitly. Six times they resort to that blatant, we-don't-have-a-clue admission of intellectual bankruptcy, the punch line that consists entirely of "Oh, Obscenity!"

Rash foolishly allows Shore to use his own customary rap, which depends on a puerile patois focused on the overuse of the suffix "-age" (food is "grindage," milk is "milkage") and such sixth-grade euphemisms as "cones" for breasts and "semi" for erection. Shore's standard conceit of referring to himself as the Weasel is an insult to weaselkind.

Only Gugino, who resembles Blair Brown both physically and in projecting a sense of lively intelligence, emerges unembarrassed. (PG-13)

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