Archive for May 1993

Made in America

May 28, 1993

Like Husbands and Wives, to which it is otherwise utterly dissimilar, this pleasant but fairly plastic comedy is a tabloid footnote. If Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson hadn’t met and fallen in love on the set, he wouldn’t have ditched his wife and made a fool of himself at Whoopi’s Friars Club roast (only to break up with her not long afterward). Anyway, Whoopi and Ted do strike sparks together, and the movie is painless, if a bit too dependent on goofy-white-people jokes.

Whoopi is a very Afrocentric bookstore owner whose brilliant daughter (Nia Long) was the result of artificial insemination — and the donor, it seems, was a lunkheaded car salesman (Ted, doing a Joe Bob Briggs turn). As usual, director Richard Benjamin aims dead up the middle but also works generously with his cast, including Paul Rodriguez as a fellow salesman, Jennifer Tilly as Ted’s airhead girlfriend, and especially the scene-stealing Will Smith (when he was still just the Fresh Prince).

The point, not overly explicit, is that if this couple — an Afrocentric woman and a crass redneck — can fall in love, anyone can. But has anyone else noticed the apparent subtext that black men are unstable and unreliable, and only a white man can be sensitive to a black woman’s needs? The film cleaned up at the box office despite one of the cheesiest ad campaigns in recent memory. Food for thought.

Mad Dog and Glory

May 5, 1993

A terrific little comedy, as well as a showcase for screenwriter Richard Price’s incomparable ear for dialogue. Robert De Niro is Wayne, a timid Chicago cop sarcastically nicknamed “Mad Dog.” Bill Murray is Frank, a gangster and part-time aspiring stand-up comic whose life Wayne saves. As payback, Frank “gives” Wayne his beautiful bartender Glory (Uma Thurman); when the two fall in love, Wayne tries to figure out a way to get Glory out of Frank’s clutches.

Half the movie’s appeal is its casting against type — not only De Niro as a wimp and Murray as a ruthless goombah, but also director John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) making a mainstream Hollywood romantic comedy (though it does have its violent moments). Mostly, as in the similarly overlooked Night and the City and Kiss of Death, it’s Richard Price’s world. He’s great on the callous jokes cops make to maintain their detachment at crime scenes, even better on confrontation (“Fuck you, and who are you?”), and perhaps best of all on the quiet, hesitant moments between Wayne and his new friends Frank and Glory. (Frank: “You married?” Wayne: “Not personally, no.”) The ending is unrealistic and a bit of a cop-out, but chances are you won’t care.