Picks and Pans Review: Short Time

updated 05/21/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/21/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Dabney Coleman, Teri Garr

Coleman and Garr are terrific comic actors. They aren't kangaroos, though, which they'd have to be to get over the barriers created for them here by debuting director Gregg Champion (son of dancers Marge and Gower, second unit director on Stake Out) and writers John Blumenthal and Michael Berry.

Early on, for instance, two policemen are murdered in graphic fashion. This is hardly a mood-setter for the often silly comedy that follows.

Coleman plays a soon-to-retire Los Angeles cop who's told he is going to die when his medical tests are confused with those of a man who has a fatal illness. (When the other man dies, his funeral is pointlessly shown, complete with grieving child and widow.) To maximize insurance benefits, Coleman tries to get killed in the line of duty. There are touching moments, notably when Coleman and Garr, as his ex-wife, subtly ease into reconciliation.

But then Coleman will have to do something like kiss his partner, Matt (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) Frewer. Or, chasing one crook, hell have to voice the painfully insensitive line, "What kind of cop killer are you?"

This schizophrenic approach robs the inevitably warmhearted conclusion of any impact and consigns Short Time to the long list of dismissable, might-have-been movies. (PG-13)

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