Cinema: Nothing New Under the Sun

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Three summer movies offer more of the same old thing

RHINESTONE She (Dolly Parton) is a country singer itching to escape from her predatory manager. He (Sylvester Stallone) is a Noo Yawk cab driver with both feet recklessly pressed on the accelerator pedal of life. East is East and South is South and never the twang shall meet, right? Not if you are familiar with Hollywood's perennial passion for cross-pollinating ethnic strains. Before you can say "Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys," the country kitten has made a bet with her manager that in two weeks she can turn this city rat into a down-home singing star. Anyone who has trouble predicting the order and outcome of each succeeding scene in this amiable airhead of a movie will be required to stay after class and read Pygmalion 100 times.

A very few films become hits because of their originality; Rhinestone harbors no such subversive motives. It means to breed familiarity without contempt by putting two proven stars through paces as measured as any in a sitcom plot. Sly visits Dolly's Tennessee home town and feels like an alien among bohunks (as in TV's Green Acres). Dolly tangles with her alcoholic ex-singing partner, who is also her ex-husband (as in Tender Mercies). Dolly teaches Sly to move country-style (as in the Let's Hear It for the Boy sequence from Footloose). Sly belts out Little Richard's rave-up Tutti-Frutti before an incredulous audience (as in another of this week's culture clashes, Top Secret!).

Bob Clark, a journeyman among movie genres (Murder by Decree, Tribute, Porky's, A Christmas Story), directs the script by Phil Alden Robinson and Stallone to its pre-arranged destination without many bumps or scenic side trips. Tim Thomerson wrings some sweetly comic juice from his role as Dolly's conniving ex; and Stallone, who as a singer seems to have taken charisma lessons from his songwriter brother Frank, is game and good-spirited in a role that plays too heavily on urban oafishness. Rhinestone, though, belongs to the lady. Parton is an irresistible screen presence, cute and cuddlesome and just a mite raunchy, a sort of Daisy Mae West. And when she sings, "I would let my gentle bosom/ Be the pillow for your head," she reminds us that her body is a statuesque amalgam of art and nature. All together now: two cheers for Dolly! —By Richard Corliss

TOP SECRET! Captured by the East German secret police, Nick Rivers (Val Kilmer), an American rock star turned secret agent, is being tortured. This happens off-camera, but we have some idea of his suffering because one of his tormentors has been introduced as "a moron who knows only what he reads in the New York Post," and he has been observed, tabloid in hand, slobbering. Our worst fears are confirmed when we learn Nick has not cracked and an escalation of his agony is required. "Do you want me to bring out the LeRoy Neiman paintings?" an underling asks the general in charge, his voice hushed by the enormity of the sadism proposed.

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