Kidding soap opera is always a risky undertaking. It's difficult to parody an art form that wallows in self-parody. ''Tune in Tomorrow'' almost manages to overcome this hurdle. The opening 45 minutes are uneventful, but the second half of the film has an abundance of laughs.
Peter Falk stars. He plays a soap writer who joins a radio station in 1951 New Orleans. Keanu Reeves is Martin, the young news writer at the station. Barbara Hershey is the 36-year-old woman who is twice divorced and is back home to find a third husband.
What she finds is her 21-year-old nephew-in-law, Martin, who wants to be a novelist and falls deeply in love with Aunt Julia (Hershey). Martin doesn't care about the age difference. He is certain that love will conquer all. She, however, will be happy if it can conquer all for at least five years. She'll settle for that.
''Tune In Tomorrow'' is cleverly staged. When we first enter the radio station, aging, portly actors read the lines of a soap. As they read, we see the same scenes acted out by much younger people.
Later, Pedro (Falk) tracks the June-December lovers and records their words, which he includes in a soap script he is writing.
All this is amusing, increasingly so during the last half of the film.
On or off, however, ''Tune In Tomorrow'' says all there is to say about racism. Pedro uses the Albanians as the butt of his hatred in all his scripts. He mentions them as frequently as he can and always unflatteringly.
Martin finally asks Pedro why.
''You have to hate something,'' says the scriptwriter.
But why Albanians?
''Why not?'' says Pedro.
Falk gets his laughs, particularly when he wears disguises. In one, he is an old woman. In another, he is a rabbi. Later, he is a cardinal.
Reeves and Hershey do nicely, too. You almost hope this marriage will work, for at least five years. Others in the cast are Richard B. Shull, Henry Gibson, Peter Gallagher, Buck Henry, Hope Lange, John Larroquette and Elizabeth McGovern.
John Amiel directed, and the screenplay is by William Boyd, who based it on the novel, ''Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter,'' by Mario Vargas Llosa.
''Tune in Tomorrow'' opens here today. Give the movie some time. The second half may be worth the investment.
''Tune in Tomorrow''
** A 36-year-old woman falls in love with a 21-year-old man in 1951 New Orleans.
CAST: Barbara Hershey, Keanu Reeves, Peter Falk, Richard B. Shull, Henry Gibson, Peter Gallagher, Hope Lange, Buck Henry, John Larroquette, Elizabeth McGovern
DIRECTOR: Jon Amiel
RATING: PG-13 (language)
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes