Picks and Pans Review: Frankie & Johnny

updated 10/28/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/28/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer

To paraphrase the classic ballad, Frankie and Johnny are sweethearts, but Lordy, how long it takes them to love. That's the rub in this otherwise winsome urban romance—a sort of hip-funky hybrid of Marty and The Shop Around the Corner—that relies on very large stars to carry the lives of very small people. "I'm a BLT-down sort of person," says Frankie the waitress (Pfeiffer) to Johnny the short-order cook (Pacino), "and I think you're looking for someone more pheasant-under-glass."

Of course the audience knows that Pacino and Pfeiffer arc two of Hollywood's dandiest birds. Screenwriter Terrence McNally's slender tale (adapted from his off-Broadway hit Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune) is even supported by the likes of Kate Nelligan and Hector Elizondo (a favorite of director Garry Marshall, e.g. Pretty Woman). Nelligan, one of the truly great actresses of our lime (Eye of the Needle, Spoils of War on Broadway), has a marvelous time slumming at the Apollo restaurant as Pfeiffer's stiletto-tongued pal. Running the beanery, this time with a Greek accent, is the estimable Elizondo.

Meanwhile the romance soars here and stumbles there, often over contemporary clichés: Why is it that every time a film heroine has romantic woes, the bottom has to fall out of her grocery bag? Pacino and Pfeiffer may well charm you out of your seats, but by the time you leave the theater you may well wonder why. (R)

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