Picks and Pans Review: Where the Heart Is

updated 03/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/12/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Dabney Coleman

There's a lot of Charm, a spirit of fun and a most appealing cast in this movie about a New York City demolitions-company owner who uses sophisticated explosives and electronics to destroy old buildings.

That's true even though director-co-writer John (The Emerald Forest) Boor-man is back to technology trashing, cynically using communications and transportation technology to deplore the existence of communications and transportation technology.

Coleman, just subtle enough as the demolitions man, is a marvel of perpetual exasperation. Suzy (Rocket Gibraltar) Amis, British newcomer David Hewlett and Uma (Dangerous Liaisons) Thurman are uniformly attractive and appealing as Coleman's three spoiled children; when he throws them out of the house and gives them their own building to renovate—an abandoned Brooklyn tenement—it generates a series of fairy-tale-sitcom events.

These events are variously palatable, from a flamboyant fashion show to Amis's artworks (she places living people on her canvases, paints over them, then photographs them).

Some sequences are marred by odd performances. Christopher Plummer is excessive as a homeless man who moves in with the three kids; he adopts a wheezy Southern accent that mixes Gabby Hayes and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. The usually reliable Joanna Cassidy, as Coleman's long-suffering wife, amateurishly exaggerates every reaction. Other scenes are marred by dialogue such as: "Don't do it by the numbers; do it from the heart."

Coleman, Amis, Hewlett and Thurman hardly miss a beat, however. Crispin (Back to the Future) Glover, another of the kids' boarders, is winningly earnest. Sheila Kelley, playing a researcher into the paranormal, seems aptly separated from reality.

The cast is so likable a happily-ever-after ending, with Coleman's offspring showing him the light, is camouflaged.

That softie Boorman. He may talk tough, but all he ever wanted to do was make a Father Knows Best. (R)

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