'King Ralph' is best when it becomes less funny

On movies

February 15, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

Universal may know something more than we do. They have reportedly signed John Goodman to a three-picture deal on the strength of his ''King Ralph,'' a comedy that opens here today.

''King Ralph'' may do big business, but it won't be because it is a very special film. It is, in fact, a rather ordinary, almost trivial, movie, and Goodman, its biggest asset, may also be its biggest liability.

He has a comic image. As the television husband to Roseanne Barr on the Barr comedy series, he carries some baggage with him, enough to encourage the movie spectator to expect a little more of the film.

Promotion has something to do with this, too. The film has been promoted as a riotous comedy, and while it tries, it is best when it takes a turn for the serious. Well, not serious serious but certainly less comic.

''King Ralph'' takes its less comic turn during the last half hour. That's when Ralph, an American entertainer who becomes king of England, realizes there are far nobler things to do than ''rule'' a kingdom.

This part of the film is actually rather touching, but that's jumping ahead. Before we get to that point, we are treated to the predictable spectacle of seeing an American entertainer (he plays piano in a Las Vegas club) adjust to the schedule he is expected to follow as the only surviving member of the royal family.

The rest have been blown up. This happens when they assemble for a group photograph and are accidentally electrocuted, en masse. It sounds tasteless, but it works. It is done with just the right touch and is never as bad as what Alec Guinness did to the royal family in his ''Kind Hearts and Coronets.''

Goodman is personable, but then we already know that. Peter O'Toole is magnificent as the private secretary to the king.

''King Ralph'' is an inoffensive time passer, but that's about it.

''King Ralph''

** An American club entertainer becomes king of England when the entire royal family is wiped out.

CAST: John Goodman, Peter O'Toole, John Hurt, Camille Coduri

DIRECTOR: David S. Ward

RATING: PG (language)

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

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