Picks and Pans Review: Brenda Starr
It seemed like Brooke's Gate before it was ever released, but this caper based on the comic strip about an intrepid newspaper reporter is more watchable than dozens of movies that have appeared since it was finished—and then shelved—five years ago.
Shields, 21 when the film was made, is not the worst actress-who-is-really-just-a-transmuted-model of all time. She is most impressive when director Robert Ellis (Reuben, Reuben) Miller concentrates on her legs, least when she has to try to reflect some irony (which, in Jenny Wolkind, Noreen Stone and James David Buchanan's square, unaware script, isn't that often). Mostly she raises questions about how so much sheer prettiness can generate so little sensuality.
Scarwid (Psycho III), all energetic impertinence as a rival reporter trying to scoop Shields on a story involving a secret fuel developed by a mad scientist in a Brazilian village, upstages the star whenever she appears. Dalton, who trots out the rascal persona he used in The Rocketeer, is a free-lance-hero type who becomes Shields' Lois Lane. Like the film's writers, though, he seems to take the plot way too seriously. The ponderous tone is broken only by Scarwid's vamping and flippant Henry (The 'burbs) Gibson, who sputters through a raucous death scene as the mad scientist.
The colorless Tony (The Slugger's Wife) Peck looks like a displaced beach boy as a cartoonist who draws himself into the story. His father, Gregory, certainly never disappeared into the scenery of a movie so completely.
Shields' 1940s-style clothing, the most consistently entertaining part of the film, was designed by Bob Mackie.
When it comes out on video (which should be soon), this will be a decently diverting piece of fluff, not nearly as pretentious as its cousin, Dick Tracy. As for our Ms. Brooke, this film doesn't qualify as a credential for doing Lady Macbeth. But the next producer turned down by Kim Basinger might profitably look Shields' way. (PG)