John Hughes' 'Only the Lonely' mixes subtle humor and ethnic slurs

On movies

May 28, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

The mother in ''Only the Lonely'' is an impossible woman, someone only a son could love. A first-generation bigot, she is a woman who hates everybody who isn't Irish. The fact that we can tolerate her, can appreciate the film that surrounds her, is tribute to the talents of Chris Columbus, who wrote and directed, and John Hughes, who produced.

It was Hughes who wrote ''Home Alone,'' which Columbus also directed. ''Home Alone'' may be the funnier movie, but ''Only the Lonely'' is the better film, an all-round film that doesn't resort to the humor of the Three Stooges.

Not that Three Stooges humor is anything to put down. It's great fun in ''Home Alone,'' but ''Only the Lonely'' doesn't try for that. Its humor is a shade more subtle, except when the Irish mother is in view. She seems unable to say anything that isn't insulting to someone. She'd be difficult to find today. You wouldn't want to think that people of this sort are still around, but apparently they are, to Columbus, at least.

As played by Maureen O'Hara, Rose Muldoon hates Greeks, Sicilians, Germans, Jews and Poles. For starters. She's just the sort you wouldn't want living in your neighborhood. Actually, you wouldn't want her living in your world.

John Candy is Rose's 38-year-old son, firmly tied to mom's apron strings, and she is not about to let him go. When he falls in love with the Sicilian-Polish daughter of a mortician, Mom is there with the expected insults.

Beyond the bigotry, Rose sees the girl as a threat to her emotional security. She doesn't want to lose her son. She wants him at her side for the rest of her life.

Candy is immensely likable as Rose's son, Ally Sheedy is most appealing as Theresa Luna, James Belushi is Candy's good friend, and Anthony Quinn is Rose's next door neighbor, a Greek-American who is the model of patience, a man who is willing to tolerate rudeness and bad breeding from the woman he loves.

She does begin to appreciate him. She even smiles at him, and when she does, says this script, there may be some hope for her. Maybe.

''Only the Lonely'' is more than vaguely reminiscent of ''Marty,'' the 1956 film that won Ernest Borgnine an Oscar. An entertaining blend of comedy and bigotry, the film is showing at local theaters.

''Only the Lonely''

** A Irish-American falls in love

with a girl his mother does not like.

CAST: John Candy, Ally Sheedy,

Maureen O'Hara, James Belushi, Anthony Quinn

DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus

RATING: PG-3 (language)

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

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