Picks and Pans Review: L.a. Story

updated 02/25/1991 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/25/1991 01:00AM

Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant

Despite the title, this isn't really a spoof of that most eminently spoofable of cities. True, it does chide some of Los Angeles's excesses, such as highway gunplay and restaurants that won't take reservations without checking a diner's financial history. In a bank cash-machine bit, two orderly lines of people are waiting: one line to withdraw money, the other to mug the withdrawers. (One mugger steps up and says, "Hi, I'm Bob, and I'll be your robber tonight.")

Mostly, though, this is a romantic comedy—a most sweet-natured, amusing one. Tennant (Mrs. Steve Martin), an English reporter, is in Los Angeles working on an article when she meets Martin (Mr. Victoria Tennant), a bored TV weatherman. Their romance has to overcome such obstacles as Marilu Henner, Martin's status-obsessed girlfriend, and Sarah Jessica Parker (of TV's Equal Justice), a sub-Valley Girl type Martin develops a crush on. (When someone says she's too young for him, he answers, "She's not so young. She'll be 27 in four years.")

A Dr. Ruth ex machina comes to the rescue—a traffic-conditions sign that tells Martin how to court Tennant. This might be cloying, but Martin, who wrote the film, keeps an edge to it; the sign, for one thing, says it was reincarnated from a bagpipe.

Martin never resorts to obvious jokes. If things get silly at times, he tosses in such so-bering lines as "A kiss may not be true, but at least it's what we wish were true."

There are a number of cameos, the best by Rick Moranis in an irrelevant but funny parody of Hamlet's gravedigger scene. BBC veteran Mick Jackson directed smoothly.

In other words, if you're working on a real grudge against Los Angeles, look up Randy Newman's song "I Love L.A." If you're looking for a whimsically smart, diverting movie, here you go. (PG-13)

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