Picks and Pans Review: Winter People

UPDATED 05/01/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/01/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT

Kelly McGillis, Kurt Russell

Here's the most plausible part of this foolish movie: Russell, an out-of-work clockmaker, is driving through rural North Carolina during the Depression with his daughter and her pet pig when his truck breaks down. He's a widower, so when he and the girl look for shelter during a winter storm, they naturally happen upon a cabin where a gorgeous single mother, McGillis, lives with her infant son. And McGillis, of course, has a soft spot for people with pigs, so she invites them in and falls in love with Russell.

Now the implausible stuff: Russell convinces Lloyd Bridges, McGillis's father, the local patriarch, that his town's church needs an elaborate new clock with a mechanical bear that will strike the hour. Then Mitchell (Lethal Weapon) Ryan appears, looking and acting like a Harvard philosophy professor, though he is cast as the ringleader of a vicious clan of illiterate mountain people. The milquetoasty Russell, to prove his manhood, gets into a wrestling match with a huge black bear. He also fights McGillis's ex-boyfriend, Jeffrey Meek, who's bigger, stronger, tougher and psychotic to boot. Guess who wins.

Director Ted Kotcheff has had an eccentric career, ranging from The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz to First Blood. In this preposterous film, written by Carol (Annie) Sobieski, he manages to make such accomplished professionals as Russell, McGillis, Bridges and Ryan look inept. The supporting cast isn't heading for any Oscar nominations either. In fact the only appealing part of Winter People is the beguiling performance of Dashiell Coleman. He is the actor playing McGillis's son, though, and it's asking a little much to expect an infant to carry a movie. (PG-13)

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