In 'Curly Sue,' slick John Hughes slides over serious situations

October 25, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

You probably think John Hughes' "Curly Sue" is a cute widdle kid movie.But it's a "let's kill all the yuppies" movie.

More thematically related to "Regarding Henry" and "The Doctor" than "Annie," it watches as an archetypal '80s figure is mulched, crushed, folded, spindled and mentholated by a sanctimonious '90s sensibility.

A question, please, Professor? Why do only rich people like John Hughes and Mike Nichols make movies that point out how vile it is to be rich? The answer, I suppose, is that only rich people make movies at all.

Anyway, "Curly Sue" isn't as long on sociological insight as it is on hypocritical blather. As Hughes has it, bitch-goddess divorce lawyer Kelly Lynch doesn't need a bullet in the brain or a bout with cancer to show her the error of her ways, only exposure to the gurgling charms of young Alisan Porter and her hangdog companion Jim Belushi. These two down-n-outers are so well-mannered and well-scrubbed that they seem to have dropped in from Club Med, not the Club Dead of brackish sewers and gratings, mean, violent streets, scraps of pre-chewed food and occasional bottles of fortified wine that comprise the world of the drifting homeless in America today.

Lynch, prosperous and smug and enmeshed in a romance with a twit-like John Getz, is hit upon by the traveling con-dad and con-daughter for a free meal. The next cold day in Chicago, she accidentally beans him with her Mercedes (this is one of those films where somebody gets hit by a car going 30 miles an hour and wakes up with a headache instead of paralyzed for life). Then she takes him and his daughter . . . home alone with her.

What is it with this guy Hughes? His secret seems to be to take truly horrifying situations, drain them of their pathological potential, and play them as brainless light comedy. After all, he turned a story about two psychotic criminals trying to get inside a house and kill a child into . . . the most successful comedy hit of all time.

It never occurs to Lynch that Belushi could be dangerous or at the very least larcenous; she leaves him alone in her Gold Coast high-rise after having made cute talk with the little girl, one of those brassy mini-Ethel Mermans who always seems on the verge of belting out seven choruses of "Everything's Coming Up Roses!" Her exposure to them humanizes her; their exposure to her stabilizes them. They all end up in Winnetka. And pigs fly when it rains.

As a director, Hughes is as slick as 10W-40 and the movie has a greasily superficial patina of believability. But it's not merely its lack of credibility that so vitiates it; worse, there's a sense that the homeless are a colorful tribe of gypsies out of Damon Runyon, there to be sentimentalized in neo-populist fables for mass consumption. I hope Hughes gave at the office; he sure doesn't give on the screen.

'Curly Sue'

Starring Kelly Lynch and Jim Belushi.

Directed by John Hughes.

Released by Warner Bros.

Rated PG.

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