Picks and Pans Review: Billy Crystal: Midnight Train to Moscow

updated 10/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sat., Oct. 21, 10 P.M. ET)

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The popular comedian and actor traces his roots back to the Soviet Union, and the results are simply mahvelous. Crystal lovingly recalls his grandmother as a lady who perfected the art of "boiling all the flavor out of food." This comedy special, filmed in Moscow and Los Angeles over the summer, always cooks. Crystal, in heavy makeup, does brilliant send-ups of black jazz artist Lester Hawkins, director Martin Scorsese and Russian comic Yakov Smirnoff. He also performs his stand-up routine for a Russian audience. Nothing is lost in the translation: Crystal gets belly laughs on such diverse subjects as Mike Tyson, Chernobyl and politics. His wife and daughter also appear in brief bits. People who love Crystal will see clearly why he is, of late, so on top of his craft.

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