There's little about 'Marrying Man' worth the time it takes to watch

April 05, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

'The Marrying Man'

Starring Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin.

Directed by Richard Rees.

Released by Hollywood Pictures (Disney).

Rated R.

... * I don't know about you, but my idea of fun at the movies is to watch a.) thoroughly repellent characters played by b.) thoroughly repugnant performers in a story that is held together by c.) large gobs of coincidence and d.) bald scenes of emotional emotional bathos unrelated to other issues raised in the plot as narrated in e.) an unconvincing voice-over to bridge the story's boring parts as delivered in f.) completely phony movie Brooklynese as shown in g.) a theater that's too hot and written by h.) Neil Simon.

Neil Simon! The Doc! The Doc-Meister! Neil and his little screenplay buddy "The Marrying Man"! Neil! DOC! DOC-O-RAMA! The comedy-meister. Mr. Doctor Laff-o-RAMA! Really, doesn't Neil Simon advance the argument for comedy-control? Shouldn't there be a seven-day waiting period on word processors and screenplay-format programs?

The movie stars Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin. Hated her, hated him. Basinger seems to grow more slatternly with the passing of the years; she vamps through "The Marrying Man" in a performance that consists mainly of grinding her pelvis and rubbing her hands on her body in a parody of seduction. Her gift for light comedy seems to have deserted her, probably crushed under the weight of Simon's "serious" scenes, when she and three-time hubby and wastrel Baldwin "discuss their relationship," as bad an idea in the movies as it is in life.

As for Baldwin, whatever charm he displayed as gee-whiz CIA wonderboy in "The Hunt for Red October" has also taken wing. tTC Here he's a stumpy greasy guy of no particular substance and is offered as interesting only because he's a rich boy. Inheriting $30 mil from his father, he's set himself up as a Hollywood playboy busy romancing the daughter of a movie mogul (overplayed by (( Robert Loggia, but then why would you hire Robert Loggia if you didn't want him to overplay?) and hanging out with some low-brow comedy funsters from Brooklyn who are trying to crack show biz.

These four, led by Paul Reiser who narrates events as if he's a one-man Damon Runyon impersonation society, form a kind of geek chorus to events, always popping up for some Dead-End Kids banter that's neither amusing nor revealing but is very time-consuming.

The time of the story is 1948 through 1956, the milieu is the Hollywood-Vegas axis just as Bugsy Siegel was turning the desert city into a gigantic Mafia cash cow. The four geeks -- based loosely, press notes say, on a famous comedian, singer, songwriter and baseball manager -- take Baldwin to Vegas for a last toot before he ties the knot to the mogul's daughter; but, sitting in Bugsy's nightclub, Baldwin takes a gander at Basinger undulating and moaning on stage and is a lost man.

At least that's what it says in the script. In the movie, Baldwin and Basinger regard each other as cold pieces of meat on a greasy plate. Zero chemistry. Zero magnetism. Zero hot. Oil (his hair) and water (her eyes). So with its romantic center as dead as Yucca Flats after an A-bomb shot, the movie around it simply eats time from your life that can never be regained. That is, unless your idea of fun is watching somebody imitate Leo Durocher.

Armand Assante has an amusing turn as Bugsy Siegel himself, though the character is absurdly concocted by the Doc-meister as romantic, bemused and ironic, a gangster one doubts ever existed. The plot device that gets the ball rolling is his chivalric insistence that Baldwin marry Basinger. It's the first of three knots they will tie over the years and the movie ends with a fourth looming.

Other news: Basinger sings her own songs, well. Best advice: wait for the video and fast forward from song to song. Turn it into a concert tape. You won't be sorry.

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