Erratic 'Mystery Date' doesn't quite make it as mystery or comedy

On movies

August 19, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

''Mystery Date'' is an attempt at mystery-comedy, one that never really makes it as either.

The mystery is sparse, the comedy is erratic, and we never really learn what the older brother is up to.

The older brother in question is played by Brian McNamara. The younger brother is played by Eric Hawke. At start, Tom (Hawke) has returned home from college and is eyeing, via telescope, the girl next door. Enter older brother Craig (McNamara), who arranges for Tom to take the girl (Teri Polo) out on a date. Use my credit card, he says. Use my clothes. Use my identity.

The trouble is, Craig has been up to no good. People are after him. They want something from him.

Of course, Tom doesn't know any of this. He's getting slapped around and doesn't know why. The police are also after him, thinking he is Craig. And on top of all that, a delivery man for a florist is dogging him for no really good reason -- he wants his tip.

The girl Tom is pursuing is game. She doesn't know what is going on, but she's is willing to be told. Tom, though, won't tell her what he knows, and that's one of the more annoying things about the film.

What's even more annoying is when the girl, dressed like a starlet, abandons her date and goes walking down a street no sensible young lady would dare walking down alone, and certainly not in the dark.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the bad guys -- Asian Mafia types -- are closing in on Tom, who is still wondering what it is that Craig has, what it is that his attackers want.

We do learn what it is, finally, but we never know why Craig has it. We never know if the older brother is good, bad or simply prankish.

Hawke and McNamara are personable, and Teri Polo makes a very appealing date. B. D. Wong, the original ''actress'' in ''M. Butterfly,'' the stage play, is the chief villain. You can't take him very seriously, but then you can't take this film very seriously, either.

''Mystery Date,'' currently playing at local theaters, is something of a mystery but not in the way the producers intended.

''Mystery Date''

* A young man on a date with a girl he has just met finds himself being pursued by both cops and bad guys.

CAST: Ethan Hawke, Teri Polo, Brian McNamara, Fisher Stevens, B. D. Wong

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Wacks

RATING: PG (language, violence)

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

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