Cinema: The Greening of the Box Office

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Three new movies hope to match the boffo Police Academy

Traditionally, spring marks the dog days of the movie business. This year, though, Hollywood is sending up a happy howl over a quartet of surprise hits: Disney's man-meets-mermaid comedy Splash ($37.5 million in 31 days); Warners' tony Tarzan epic Greystoke ($14.8 million in ten days); Fox's distaff Raiders rip-off'Romancing the Stone (5/2.5 million in ten days); and a rowdy ensemble farce, Police Academy (an astonishing $30 million in its first 17 days). Herewith, reports on three new contenders and the reigning champ:


Come back with us to working-class Los Angeles in the 1940s, when hubby went off to war and the little woman stoked the home fires on an aircraft assembly line. Kay Walsh (Goldie Hawn) has left her doll's house to play Rosie the Riveter and fall into an uneasy dalliance with her boss (Kurt Russell), a 4-F Romeo who has seen one Alan Ladd movie too many. Meanwhile, Kay's nice-guy husband (Ed Harris) has joined the Navy; to her, for now, he is just a memory on the mantelpiece.

Swing Shift moves like a show horse with a faulty sense of direction. Rob Morton's script lacks both the grit and the incidents for flat-out comedy; it stolidly refuses to kindle the spark of romance between Kay and her swains; and while her girlfriends at the plant seem ripe to make an oddball ensemble, Director Jonathan Demme deflects their few chances for feminist fun. Through the oilcloth of nostalgia one can still spot some fine performances. Hawn unerringly registers Kay's every emotion with the wide-eyed intensity of a six-year-old; Christine Lahti is a delight as the tart cookie who lives next door; Holly Hunter shines as a brand-new war widow. With their devoted handiwork, the Swing Shift aircraft almost takes off. —By Richard Corliss


Someone finally had to say it: New York City is not quite as dangerous as Johnny Carson makes it out to be in his monologues. On the other hand, things are not as beamish in the Big Apple as Director Paul Mazursky would have them seem in this all too agreeable fable about a Soviet circus saxophonist who suddenly decides to defect from his touring troupe when his previously apolitical mind is blown by the capitalist splendors of Bloomingdale's.

The store scene is wonderful, a perfect paradigm of the kind of tangled wrangle no true New Yorker can resist joining. By the time the sequence is over, the FBI and the KGB are disputing sovereignty over Vladimir Ivanoffs befuddled soul, helped along by the N.Y.P.D., the store's security force, a nice lady from the perfume counter, a gallant homosexual from men's wear and assorted shoppers. Thereafter, though, the film loses its verve.

Robin Williams, who seems to have absorbed something of the Russian soul while acquiring a persuasive Russian accent, is excellent. He provides all the sweetness any picture needs. One keeps hoping Mazursky and Co-Scenarist Leon Capetanos will introduce some contrasting flavors. Until Vladimir encounters some afterthought muggers, everyone he meets is unfailingly helpful and kind; he has no difficulty finding jobs, an apartment, friends of both sexes. Yet every fairy tale needs to have a wicked witch; her broomstick is always useful as a lever to pry us upright in our seats and as a goad to keep us there. —By Richard Schickel

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