Cinema: Of Hotels, Hoods and a Mermaid

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Four new films, but only a finny romance is a hit


It is axiomatic: if a man falls in love with a mythical creature in a movie, the result is bound to be a gagging spoonful of whimsy. All credit, then, to Splash for having a mermaid capable of turning her fins into shapely gams flop up on Manhattan's in salubrious shores, where a quick education in paranoia, cynicism and the perils of materialism has ever been available to out-of-towners. For from that unpromising situation emerges a romantic comedy that is as salty and bracing as a plunge in the surf. Whenever Daryl Hannah, as the sweetly shallow creature from the deep, and Tom Hanks, as the produce merchant who loves her, start to get goopy, there is a New York City street person available to assert the reality principle: Eugene Levy, splendid as a mad scientist who seems to have wandered in from a Jaws sequel, or John Candy, fine as a man who thinks Penthouse centerfolds are philosophical statements.

Before Director Ron Howard and his gargle of writers (Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel and Bruce Jay Friedman) arrange a satisfactorily romantic ending for their odd couple, they also manage to satirize everything from presidential politics to daytime television. They are a jostling, busily observant, funda mentally good-natured crew, and audiences are well advised to take a plunge on Splash. — By Richard Schickel


Against All Odds is one of those remakes that inexplicably leave out everything that was interesting and memorable in the original in order to concentrate on the conventional and the routine. Eric Hughes' screenplay is based on Out of the Past, which may be the most deliriously convoluted film noir ever made, and the new picture retains the clockwork heart of the 1947 Robert Mitchum movie: a gangster hires an investigator to find the woman who has run away from him; when hunter and hunted meet and fall in love, the hood suffers a criminal loss of temper. But it has misplaced the suffering romantic soul of its model, which ex pressed itself through narration and dialogue that recollected tacky things past in tough, cynically charged metaphors and through images as shadowed as an ambiguous memory. It was all rather as if Philip Marlowe had decided to stake out his suspect disguised as Marcel Proust.

Director Taylor Hackford, who did An Officer and a Gentle man, has banished darkness from his remake and told memory to take a hike. He works in a relentlessly sun-drenched present, and his central figures (Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward and James Woods) are used as symbols, not of the past's sweet cheats but of tedious corruption and the lost paradise of Los Angeles. The result is a flat, dumbly brutal movie, full of overplotted complexity and empty of all emotional resonance, except that provided by the presence of Jane Greer (the original film's dark lady, here doing a supporting role) and Richard Widmark, who stalked many a stylish mean street in better movie days. Their participation is both a pleasure and a curse. Simply by lending their veteran gifts to this retread, they remind us that progress is not Holly wood's most important product. —R.S.


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