Somewhere along the way, 'Bodyguard' loses its credibility

VIDEO

July 16, 1993|By Scott Hettrick

THE BODYGUARD

(Warner, $99.99, rated R, 1992)

Billy Crystal's Fernando character said, "It is better to look good than to feel good." Although it gets a great laugh, one has the sense watching "The Bodyguard" that it is a truism among

Hollywood types, at least with the producers of this shallow celluloid sleight-of-hand.

There's only the tiniest hint of a story here -- and even less plot. Essentially, the audience is supposed to feel satisfied that they are able to watch two pretty celebrities, Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston, wander around in the stylish and glitzy world of stardom, while enjoying a soundtrack featuring new songs by Ms. Houston.

However, the audience apparently was satisfied, because the film grossed more than $120 million, and a single from the soundtrack went to the top of the charts.

But for those who still demand cinematic elements such as substance, originality and credibility, this is a complete misfire.

The idea is simple enough: Mr. Costner plays ex-Secret Service agent turned private bodyguard Frank Farmer, who reluctantly accepts a job guarding prima donna pop star Rachel Marron (Ms. Houston), who has been receiving anonymous threats. Of course, the two strong personalities -- opposites -- are eventually attracted to each other. And what better place to prove one's undying affection than on stage during the Academy Awards ceremony?

Beautiful.

Never mind that within the first 10 minutes the film practically superimposes a flashing arrow identifying the person behind the threats. And don't bother trying to figure out who all those red herring attackers were; they don't add up.

Never mind that the director didn't bother to include any scenes in which we see Farmer's growing attraction for Marron. It is apparently enough to know that he is suddenly head over heels for her, OK?

What makes the romantic thriller particularly disappointing is that it was written and co-produced by Lawrence Kasdan ("The Big Chill," "Body Heat") and that it starts out so promisingly, with Kevin Costner doing a great Clint Eastwood-type stoic tough guy who never smiles and isn't impressed or intimidated by anyone.

He even gets off some Dirty Harry-like sarcastic lines.

When the skeptical Marron says he doesn't look like a tough guy, Farmer responds, "This is my disguise."

When someone challenges the value of Farmer's claim that he guarded President Reagan, noting that "Reagan got shot," Farmer snarls, "Not on my shift."

Unfortunately, if you're looking for something more than pretty pictures and wisecracks, this film isn't likely to make your day.

LORENZO'S OIL

(MCA/Universal, rated PG-13, 1992)

Who would have thought that the director of "Mad Max" could create one of the most compelling and completely believable dramatizations of the struggle of parents who have a child with an incurable disease?

Although the film's centerpiece, based on a true story, is their 5-year-old son's affliction with the deadly adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), it is Augusto (Nick Nolte) and Michaela Odone (Susan Sarandon) who are the primary focus, as they struggle first with the frightening symptoms, next with the frustratingly complex and elusive diagnosis, then with ineffective treatments and finally with experimentation.

But as well scripted, acted, directed, edited and produced as this film is, it is also very difficult to watch on a number of levels. Lorenzo's increasingly slurred speech becomes impossible for the audience to understand several scenes before Michaela has the same problem. He then deteriorates to a point that he no longer has a swallowing reflex, causing him to go into horrifying spasms with blood-curdling screams as he nearly drowns in his own saliva.

Further taxing the viewer is Mr. Nolte's Italian accent, which not only seems unnatural but is also difficult to understand. It's almost less troublesome in the few scenes when he speaks in Italian and we get subtitles.

There is also a deficiency in helping the audience to understand how the couple can afford the years of expenses associated with the medical treatments and numerous travel expenses, especially since both of them seem to have nearly abandoned their jobs.

But none of these criticisms or warnings of the extraordinarily painful passages should deter viewers from watching this amazing and inspiring story of resilience, resourcefulness and

persistence.

PREHYSTERIA

(Moonbeam)

This new, low-budget dinosaur adventure has several things going for it. First, it is an ideal pacifier for youngsters who have been giving you grief about not letting them see the extremely intense "Jurassic Park." Second, it stars Austin O'Brien, the kid in "Last Action Hero," who has been getting better reviews than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Most important, it is a delightful film the family can enjoy together. The cute comedy-romance-adventure involves a single-parent father and his son and daughter who discover a litter of recently hatched pygmy dinosaurs in their basement and then try to protect them from money-grubbing opportunists.

Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

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