Cinema: Nothing New Under the Sun

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Like these jailers, Top Secretl's writer-directors—Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker, the team irresponsible for Airplane! four years ago—will go to any lengths to break down the resistance of the audience. They sprinkle a generous supply of topical gags (the Reagan joke is balanced by a Jimmy Carter joke) and adolescent sex jokes (the heroine, played by Lucy Gutteridge, informs Nick that her name, Hillary, means "she whose bosoms defy gravity") over a dizzying succession of generic spoofs. Beyond the basic sendup, which is of World War II-vintage spy movies, they work in parodies of Bond-style adventures and beach-blanket and malt-shop rock-'n'-roll musicals. Omar Sharif is the veteran star recruited to mock his image and collect the good-sport award from audiences. The dictum that less is more means nothing here; pace and profligacy are everything. This time, though, the creative group has neglected to build to the kind of giddy, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink climax that made Airplane! such a memorable exercise in anarchy. Top Secret! plays more like a pillow fight in a summer-camp cabin, an agreeable way to pass the time after lights-out, but one that just peters out when everyone gets tired of breaking the rules. —By Richard Schickel

THE KARATE KID Like Flashdance, it shows the triumph of the determined teen-age spirit over adversity. Like Rocky, it offers the spectacle of a young man punishing his body in order to aquire the skill and toughness to win a big fight against long odds. Like "the Star Wars saga, it provides him with a Yoda-like mentor full of gnomic instruction and inspiration in his struggle against evil. In short, The Karate Kid presents the smallest imaginable variations on three well-tested formulas for movie success.

This film's art consists entirely of hiding the cynicism of its calculations under an agreeably modest and disarming manner. In this it is greatly aided by Ralph Macchio as the Kid and Noriyuki ("Pat") Morita as the apartment handyman who teaches martial arts and pacifistic wisdom to the 97-lb. weakling tired of being beaten up by the bullies at school. Robert Mark Kamen's script is developed with maddening predictability, and John G. Avildsen's direction is literal and ambling. Films like this are what the PG r ating is supposed to be all about. And how one longs to spot a few gremlins chuckling malevolently in the corner. —R.S.

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