Picks and Pans Review: Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael

updated 10/29/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 10/29/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Winona Ryder, Jeff Daniels

Anyone who knows the Eugene O'Neill play about those people waiting around a saloon for the salesman to come will find this movie to be a shaggy iceman story.

Give director Jim (Big Business) Abrahams and debuting writer-producer Karen Leigh Hopkins credit for having an idea: addressing the power of self-delusion. But they and their two stars execute that idea in such a loose-geared way that all the pipe dreams seem less poignant than dopey.

The Roxy of the title is a minor celebrity—her boyfriend wrote a hit tune about her—who is coming back to her little Ohio hometown to open the Roxy Carmichael School of Cosmetology and Drama. Roxy herself remains a mystery throughout the film, and don't be surprised if about midway through audience members start calling out, ""On second thought, Roxy, you're better off where you are."

Ryder (Great Balls of Fire!) plays an eccentric high school girl who is intended to be lovably unconventional but seems just bratty. She shuns her adoptive parents, paints her room black and spends most of her time on a riverbank talking to her menagerie; at school, the other kids throw rocks at her, and you've got to like them for it. The way Ryder keeps rolling her eyes—the better to display her superiority, it looks like—you'll want to throw rocks at her too.

Daniels plays Roxy's old boyfriend. He's now married and has children but is re-smitten with Roxy, who must have been one hot number (she even has a former lesbian lover stoking the fires again). Daniels, who'll wimp himself to death one of these days if he isn't careful, keeps making you think of limp noodles.

Ryder, meanwhile, decides Roxy is her mother, and the whole town is planning for Roxy's return. Hoo boy, are they obsessed.

The talented young Thomas Wilson (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) Brown is likable as a boy who falls for Ryder. Laila (An Innocent Man) Robins makes for a nicely sympathetic guidance counselor.

All of this might be meaningful with a more eloquent script. This one even gets down to having Brown earnestly tell Ryder. "There are real people right here in your life who care about you." Now, if some of them could move out into the audience. (PG-13)

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