Picks and Pans Review: Her Alibi

updated 02/06/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/06/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

As far as pinup popularity is concerned, Selleck has few peers among current macho men. Eight years of Magnum, P.I. on the tube and the $170 million grossed by his recent hit, Three Men and a Baby, substantiate the claim. But Gable could do a foolish farce (Wife vs. Secretary; Teacher's Pet) without sacrificing his cinematic virility or vibrancy. Selleck cannot. At least not on the basis of this botch job. For whatever idiotic reason, Selleck has been encouraged to work against his looks and charm, a feat at which he proves alarmingly adept. He plays a mystery writer under emotional stress. His wife has dumped him, his readers are following suit, and he can't find a new plot to please his editor, fussily acted by St. Elsewhere's William Daniels. "Your stuff doesn't have any grit—it's predictable," whines Daniels. For a moment you think you're in on the film's real-life script conference, especially if you know the woeful work of screenwriter Charlie {Paternity; Blame It on Rio) Peters. Seeking inspiration in a Manhattan courtroom, Selleck spots his muse in the knockout form of Paulina Porizkova, the cover girl cast as a Romanian émigré accused of piercing the heart of a young swain with a pair of scissors. A smitten Selleck offers himself as her alibi in return for learning and writing about her true story. As she proved with her 1987 film debut in Anna, Porizkova possesses a light comic touch rare among models who try acting. But Australian director Bruce Beresford, more at home in the dramatic territory of Breaker Morant and Tender Mercies, can turn a laugh line to lead in seconds flat. Worse, with two of the most heavenly bodies in movies to rub together, he fails to ignite any sparks. Porizkova merely stands by looking attractively aghast while Selleck—fearing his love may be a lethal weapon—trips over himself like a pumped-up Pee-wee Herman. When Porizkova accidentally shoots Selleck in the backside with an arrow, our hero shouts double entendres ("Help me pull it out!" "Don't touch the shaft!") that promise what the movie won't deliver. Near the end, just after a large contingent of supporting actors including Tess Harper, Patrick Wayne and Joan Cope-land all upchuck a gourmet meal, Selleck dons a red nose and fright wig and makes his transformation into a clown complete. Big Tom gives the role a game try. But he's not Clark; he's Clarabell. Audiences eager to ogle the love match of Magnum and model are unlikely to be aroused or amused. (PG)

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