Picks and Pans Review: Sibling Rivalry

updated 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Kirstie Alley, Bill Pullman

When Alley sprang to attention in 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, she seemed destined to be little more than the next Charlotte Rampling: an undistinguished actress with fascinating eyes. That's why it's a little shocking that she has become of late one of the busiest female comedy stars in Hollywood—especially when you consider that her entire comic arsenal consists of getting excessively flustered.

Luckily this film is perfectly suited to her one-note range, in the same way that Cheers scripts are. Alley plays a dutiful housewife, bored into what she terms "a functional coma" by her neglectful gastroenterologist hubby, Scott (Quantum Leap) Bakula.

On the advice of her sexually frank younger sister, Jami (The Lost Boys) Gertz, Alley has an affair with a suave stranger, Sam Elliott, who picks her up in a supermarket. After an orgasmic adventure that has her invoking both Aunt Jemima and Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," her partner dies post coitus. This dirty secret allows Alley to spend the rest of the movie doing her Nervous Nellie routine.

There's another player on the field, and he's rampant. That's Pullman, as a numbskull who thinks that he caused Elliott's death. Pullman seems to have prepared by closely studying the work of Hollywood's loosest cannon, Crispin Glover.

Director Carl Reiner gets his plot complications established with notable efficiency. The result is a busy but bland farce, full of sophomoric sex jokes. The whole thing is capped off with a wholesome, completely extraneous coda that's propped on top of this film like a bad toupee.

Everyone in the cast must envy Elliott. He gets to make love and die early, with only a posthumous condom gag hurled after him. The others must slog through to the schizophrenic ending. (PG-13)

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