Well-cast 'If Looks Could Kill' is a simple but lively spoof of spy movies


March 18, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

The last hour of ''If Looks Could Kill'' doesn't quite measure up to the first 35 minutes, but the film, overall, is an enjoyable spoof of the spy genre.

We haven't had any of these in a long while. They wore out their welcome a few years back, some time before the James Bond films did, which may be why this one pleases as much as it does. It all seems almost new. It's a good spy spoof, not great but good.

Richard Grieco stars. You don't know Grieco? Well, he's big on television. He did ''21 Jump Street'' then ''Booker.'' Now, he's a movie star, and he doesn't do that badly. He has a few of those Bond-like remarks (when a man dies under a shower of coins, Grieco says, ''Keep the change''), and he does rather nicely with them.

William Dear (''Harry and the Hendersons'') directed, and Linda Hunt plays the arch villainess. Now, that's inspired casting. Hunt is tiny in stature, and here she is, doing a takeoff on Lotte Lenya, the villainess in ''From Russia With Love.''

Actually, everyone is nicely cast in the film. Robin Bartlett is Mrs. Grober, the French teacher acting as chaperon for a group of students in Paris, Roger Daltry makes a very brief appearance as a British agent, and Roger Dees is the villain who wants to control all of Europe and is killing off all the finance ministers in order to accomplish his objective. He is also amassing all the gold he can and is converting it into the coin that will represent his new realm.

Michael Corben (Grieco) becomes involved in all this because he has the same name as a super agent who is to arrive in Paris and nail the killers. Naturally, he is mistaken for that man, and when he is, British agents show him through their high-tech weapons lab, a very funny reminder of the same sequences that were part of the Bond series.

Don't worry about the plot. The film is easy enough to follow without paying that much attention to it. It is the gags, visual and otherwise, that make this film, and there are enough to keep it going.

It may help to know the Bond, Matt Helm (Dean Martin) and Flint (James Coburn) films. It may also help to know that while ''If Looks Could Kill'' includes a bit of violence, it is the comic-book kind, not the sort you get in ''Silence of the Lambs.''

''If Looks Could Kill'' Is a nice enough way to spend 95 minutes.

''If Looks Could Kill''

** An American high-school student, in Paris to learn French, is mistaken for a British agent and finds himself being pursued by a man who hopes to control Europe.

CAST: Richard Grieco, Linda Hunt, Roger Rees, Robin Bartlett, Gabrielle Anwar, Roger Daltry

DIRECTOR: William Dear

RATING: PG-13 (sex, violence)

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

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