'Tune in Tomorrow' for boring romance, bad comedy

November 02, 1990|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

"Tune In Tomorrow" is the real enemy.

Critics have been beating snare drums all summer about empty, shallow, pointless studio pictures and how they're driving smaller, more unique films out of the marketplace. But here's "Tune In Tomorrow," with its cosmopolitan heritage -- adapted by a British novelist from a famous Peruvian novel and filmed by a BBC director in New Orleans -- that's small and unique. But it's also empty, shallow and pointless.

It's one of those ornate literary conceits that must have been a great read on the typed page, but it's so overplayed, so bombastic, so freighted with meaningless incident, purple rhetoric and preciously bad comedy, that it's like being mugged by dwarfs in an alley. You walk out dazed, unable to remember where you parked.

Novelist William ("An Ice Cream War") Boyd moves Mario Vargas Llosas' novel "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter" from Lima to the Big Easy, for reasons that seem to have more to do with getting American money into the movie than contributing anything new to the story. As Boyd has it, a struggling radio station in the '50s hires a legendary soap opera writer-producer to head its production of "the serial." The writer, Pedro Carmichael, played with hammy glee by Peter Falk behind a dippy Zorro mustache, soon turns New Orleans on its ear with his lurid story of incest and sexual intrigue among the swells.

The film keeps cutting to campy dramatizations of the soap, with bargain-basement celebs like Peter Gallagher and Buck Henry in key roles. Meanwhile, one of the news writers at the station -- Keanu Reeves -- falls in love with his older aunt (by marriage), played by Barbara Hershey.

Learning of this, the flamboyant Pedro begins to stage-manage the affair, at the same time looting it for emotional data to plug into the soap opera. This leads to an endless supply of art-vs.-reality jokes that are intriguing to almost nobody but their authors. Worse, the parallels in the stories -- between the flamboyant soap characters, and the real affair as lived by Reeves and Hershey -- aren't nearly as illuminating or ironic as the author presumes them to be.

The movie quickly decomposes into an endless series of very loud emotional scenes, none of them particularly distinguished, nothing really adding up. Reeves is earnest and boring, Hershey is voluptuous and boring and Falk is flamboyant and boring. The film even manages to turn New Orleans boring.

'Tune In Tomorrow'

Starring Peter Falk and Barbara Hershey.

Directed by Jon Amiel.

Released by Cinecon.

Rated PG-13.

**

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