Picks and Pans Review: My Blue Heaven

updated 09/03/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/03/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Steve Martin, Rick Moranis

If this movie moved any slower, they'd have to run the projector in reverse.

It seems like a can't-miss comedy idea, with Martin as a low-level mobster who has gone into the federal witness protection program and Moranis as the FBI agent in charge of Martin's case. But director Herbert (The Secret of My Success) Ross and screenwriter Nora (When Harry Met Sally...) Ephron strand Martin and Moranis up a creek without a paddle, then knock a few holes in their boat for good measure.

Martin, with an odd semi-Bronx accent, Moranis, the very model of a modern straight man, and Joan (Working Girl) Cusack, as a district attorney in the town where Martin is relocated, ought to have completed a terrific comic trio. But the dialogue is excruciatingly unimaginative: "Are you trying to make a deal with me?" "I don't know. Am I trying to make a deal with you?"

Ephron's taste remains mostly in her spleen. The reliable Daniel Stern is trashed in two irrelevant bits as Cusack's arrogant former spouse, apparently so that Ephron can get in a little ex-husband bashing. (Carol Kane is similarly wasted as a local floozie who falls for Martin.) And there's this joke (told twice): "What's the difference between a light bulb and a pregnant woman?" "You can't unscrew the woman."

The film comes to life only in a scene where there isn't any dialogue, as Martin teaches Moranis the merengue, aided by Leslie Cook and Melissa Hurley.

It's not My Blue Heaven's worst offense, but it is typically insulting that its closing shot, supposedly of a Little League field, really shows an adult field, so the boy pitching has to move in front of the mound. It's as if Ross and Ephron are saying of their audience, as they have throughout the movie, "Ah, so what. We can get away with anything with these people." (PG-13)

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