'Livin Large!' an uneven but humorous swipe at television's excesses

On movies

September 20, 1991|By Lou Cedrone

''Livin' Large!'' has great potential for farce. It doesn't realize all that potential, but it does have it's share of laughs.

The film is also a little mean-spirited at times. Like so many contemporary film comedies, it reduces women to the level of ''bitches,'' but for every misstep, ''Livin' Large!'' has it's good moments.

The movie was directed by Michael Schultz, who has a string of films to his credit including ''Car Wash'' and ''The Last Dragon.'' This is not his strongest film. It's a little too ramshackle, and technically, it doesn't have the polish Schultz's other films have had.

However, there are laughs, the biggest of which takes place when Terrence (T.C. Carson), as a young man in a hurry for success, goes to work for a TV station whose manager asks him to do magazine pieces on the people in his neighborhood in Atlanta.

He's very willing to do so. He is very willing to sell out all his friends. In fact, he is so eager to make it, he is willing to sell his soul.

Some of this business doesn't play that well, even in a movie that aims for farce, but other parts do. There is, for instance, the scene in which Blanche Baker, as the station's executive director, tries to whiten Dexter's image. The word is ''ask,'' she says, not ''ax,'' and when she picks up an ax to demonstrate the difference, Dexter understands.

The film does have an underbelly, one that is ethnically correct, and it handles this aspect with some finesse. Dexter, in his eagerness to become a newscaster, is perfectly willing to shed his past, his black identity. As he does, he becomes whiter and whiter, a point that is made by having a white Dexter appear, without invitation, on Dexter's television screen.

In the end, Dexter, who has been persuaded to marry a white newscaster so that they will be the first interracial news couple in the country, realizes that he is leaving too much behind. He is black and proud to be so, and this is a point the film makes with assurance.

Too bad it's not so sure of itself in other areas. The finale, for instance, is a mess. Form, delicacy and wit are out the window, and that's a pity.

Carson, a newcomer to the screen, is very easy as the young man who grabs the opportunity to show his stuff when a newscaster, working at a hostage scene, is shot to death.

All this is treated as farce, and this is where the film strikes its first mean note. It hits a few more at close.

Lisa Arrindell is the young woman who loves Dexter, Nathaniel ''Afrika'' Hall is Dexter's good friend who narrates the film, serving as a kind of Greek chorus, and Julia Campbell is the white co-hostess who agrees to marry Dexter to beef up those ratings.

''Livin' Large!'' isn't easy on the world of television, but then it doesn't mean to say the these things only go on at television stations. This particular television station simply serves as a metaphor for the business world.

''Livin' Large!'' opens here today.

''Livin' Large!' ** A young man, hungry for success, blunders his way into the world of television.

CAST: Terrence ''T.C.'' Carson, Lisa Arrindell, Nathaniel ''Afrika'' Hall, Blanche Baker, Julia Campbell, Bernie McInerney, Loretta Devine

DIRECTOR: Michael Schultz

RATING: R (language, sex, violence)

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

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