Picks and Pans Review: Crazy People

updated 04/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Dudley Moore, Daryl Hannah

As a satire of the ad business (which as a target is as huge and defenseless as one of those pointless promotional blimps), this film has some wickedly funny moments. Moore, as an account executive who decides he doesn't want to "lie for a living" anymore, has a breakdown and does a series of ads based on telling the truth:

COME TO NEW YORK-THERE WERE FEWER MURDERS LAST YEAR. UNITED-MOST OF OUR PASSENGERS GET THERE ALIVE. VOLVO-THEY'RE BOXY BUT GOOD.

The head of Moore's agency is outraged, of course, and, also of course, the ads, accidentally printed, are a hit. By now Moore is in a mental institution, where his breakdown ends and the movie's begins.

Any film that tries to use mental illness as a premise for jokes is in a precarious position, and in this case there's something excessive about the conceit—that the instability of mental patients is nothing compared with the instability of ostensibly sane advertising types. It's a nudge-nudge idea—do you get it, huh?—marred by J.T. (Wired) Walsh, as Moore's boss, overplaying his tyrannical role so badly and by the mental patients seeming like a variation on those platoons in World War II movies. There's one black, one old guy, one dreamy guy, one lovable bumbler.

The romance that develops between Moore and Hannah doesn't play well either. For one thing, he's 55 to her 29, and it shows; for another, she towers over him.

Director Tony (Six Weeks) Bill and writer Mitch (Good Morning, Vietnam) Markowitz lead things to a fairy-tale ending that neutralizes the earlier satire. They settle for a moral victory: This movie isn't as funny as it might have been, but it isn't as offensive either. (R)

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