Picks and Pans Review: Skin Deep

updated 03/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/20/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

John Ritter, Julianne Phillips

Yes, the condom scene is very funny. As probably everyone knows by now, this comedy features a slapstick sequence in which a red fluorescent condom and a blue fluorescent condom do battle against a pitch-black screen in a bedroom scene that could hardly have been shown in a mainstream film before the 1980s. It's outrageous and hysterical. It also highlights what's wrong with the movie: The condoms are a lot more colorful than the characters. Written and directed by the once-great, now grating Blake Edwards, Skin Deep is the latest chapter in his continuing series on male menopause as experienced by citizens of Southern California in the second half of the 20th century. As the Margaret Mead of Malibu, Edwards religiously studies and finds fascinating behavior that would merely bore and annoy anyone else. Obsessed as he is with mid-life crises, Edwards is precipitating one in his own career: He's repeating himself like mad. In fact Skin Deep acts like a gawky kid sister to Edwards's 10, which looks increasingly like a classic of this peculiar genre.

In this film, you've once again got your middle-aged Hollywood writer who finds it hard to keep his pants on and his marriage intact. You've got your understanding bartender, Vincent Gardenia, and your not-so-understanding shrink, Michael Kidd. You've got your parade of beautiful temptresses, including Phillips and especially Chelsea Field as the hapless spectator in the condom clash. What you don't have, alas, are Dudley Moore or Bo Derek, who gave that earlier comedy its freaky chemistry. Although Ritter serves the material well enough, he's playing recycled scenes. With the exception of the condom sketch, Edwards hasn't updated his material to reflect the 10 years that have passed since 10. The notorious bedroom sequence stands out as not only daring but as the only fresh moment in the movie. In the wake of such duds as Sunset and That's Life!, it's reassuring to get at least one real laugh out of an Edwards movie. But the ads are wrong: Skin Deep doesn't glow in the dark. It glowers. (R)

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