Luke Perry gropes for 'Terminal Bliss'

March 10, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

If your life won't be complete without seeing Luke Perry before sideburns, then you'd best get yourself to "Terminal Bliss" before it makes a hasty departure or before Luke Perry's 15 minutes are up, whichever comes sooner.

There he is, a year or two shy of his breakthrough in "90210," face unlined, body undeveloped, handsome as the god Apollo himself under a crest of blondish hair. He looks like James Dean raised on a diet of cornflakes and 100 percent whole milk. And there too are his burnless sides, white as marshmallows or Wonder bread, right next to his ears. It's so . . . incredible! The dude really has skin there! Far out!

As for the movie displaying this phenomenon of nature, it's both more and less than one might expect. Though it has a few fast-lane scenes of prosperous teens doing drugs or sex and one nasty bit where a cruel Perry deflowers a 14-year-old, "Terminal Bliss" is actually as sedate and self-important as Ingmar Bergman at his worst. It's full of angst and whining and despair, all offered as part of the eternal tragedy of being rich and young.

Perry, though he's billed as "star" and a poster featuring his aquiline face has been given out as a promotion gimmick, isn't even the main character. That honor falls to Timothy Owen, who plays Alex. Alex and John -- that is, Perry -- have this friendship-competition thing going, and there's something in John that keeps pushing him a little too far. He can't lose; he has to take the most of everything and take it first.

These wealthy kids are pursuing agony and depression somewhere near Charleston, S.C., 29294, but for some reason they don't talk with Southern accents. Anyway, when Alex falls for a nice girl, John quickly takes her away from him, gets her pregnant, gets her an abortion, continues to flirt and tease her and then gets a Porsche from his dad.

The movie follows the gropings of these three through a society more hedonistic than the late Ottoman Empire, but the director Jordan Alan is so busy trying to be Bergman rather than Cecil B. DeMille, he never has much fun with all the sin. In the end, one of the triumvirate drowns under mysterious circumstances and the other two exchange meaningful glances. Then they go back to sleep. Along with the audience.

'Terminal Bliss'

Starring Luke Perry and Timothy Owen.

Directed by Jordan Alan.

Released by Canon.

Rated R.

**

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