Picks and Pans Review: Funny About Love

updated 10/08/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/08/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Gene Wilder, Christine Lahti, Mary Stuart Masterson

Maybe Leonard Nimoy ought to get out to the movies more often. It sure would have behooved him if, before he directed this film about a couple's travails in the baby-making business, he had seen the 1989 film Immediate Family. That way he might have avoided duplicating so many of its ideas.

It would have also enabled him to remind Masterson that she appeared in Immediate Family, playing basically the same odd-woman-out role she does here. What Gabby Hayes was to fuzzy-whiskered old sidekicks, Masterson is to eccentric young women entangled with infertile couples.

Wilder is a famous, Gary Larson-type cartoonist; Lahti, the caterer he meets at one of his book-signing parties and marries about 30 seconds later. (Everything in this film is speeded up, as if it were a Classics Illustrated version of a Reader's Digest condensed book.) Masterson is a college student Wilder meets about 30 seconds after he and Lahti break up; ensuing movings-in and -out, pregnancy, breakups and reconciliations occur at a similarly frenetic pace.

The lamb-faced Wilder is funny and charming; Lahti, intelligent-seeming and attractive; they appear so at ease together their instant courtship almost makes sense. That's hardly true of their split, which seems based on the fact that they get stuck in traffic—flimsy grounds for divorce even in these inconstant times. Masterson is reliably appealing but her character is treated shabbily for what's supposed to be a light comedy—the "joke" about her father being killed in Vietnam is no model of taste either.

Writers Norman (Blazing Saddles) Steinberg and newcomer David Frankel have a couple of moments of inspiration. When a fertility specialist asks him if he has been spending a lot of time in hot tubs, Wilder replies, "How did you know?"

"Because," the doctor says, "all your sperm are wearing terry cloth robes."

The sperm sample scene, however, is right out of Immediate Family, and most of the script is dreary: Masterson tells Wilder, "You're responsible for the resurgence of political humor for my generation."

"Well." he says, "you have to give a little credit to Ronald Reagan and Dan Quayle."

So, to sum up: Let's not have any more fertility comedies for a while. Masterson, next time try playing a nun marooned on a desert island. Len, live long, prosper and take in a flick once in a while. (PG-13)

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