A Cadillac, a crusade, a charmer

October 08, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

The audience for "Road Scholar," which opens today at th Rotunda, certainly should include readers of The Sun. That's because this is the first movie ever about a Sun writer, if you discount Meg Ryan in "Sleepless in Seattle," and Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins in "HeSaid, She Said."

Not only that: Our boy actually appears on camera most of the time. He gets to ride a big red convertible and shoot machine guns! Yes: it's "Lethal Weapon IV" with Dan Rodricks in the Mel Gibson role!

Oh, forgive my little joke there, folks. Of course it's not (although Rodricks could do a great action movie). Instead it's . . . Andrei Codrescu, long-time op-ed page contributor, as centerpiece and icon of a very strange odyssey across America.

Codrescu's take on things American should therefore be familiar: it's the puzzled skeptic, but the skeptic is sufficiently sophisticated to know when to play dumb and keep his mouth shut and when to let a zinger go. Moreover, as a camera object, Codrescu is sufficiently interesting enough to keep this quixotic little crusade amusing.

Short, with a sparkle, a mass of hair, a kind of smirky amusement plastered on his face, he looks particularly interesting when he's nestled behind the wheel of a gigantic red Cadillac ragtop as he voyages from sea to shining sea.

The movie has some of the charm of Codrescu's op-ed pieces, a series of short takes that make an ironic or mocking point, don't take themselves too seriously, and are then over fast enough so that they don't begin to bore you. His observations are generally WASPish. He describes a Cadillac, for example, as "a car named after a French explorer famous for founding Detroit and fighting Native American pedestrians."

He loves to go to poet's homes, such as Walt Whitman's in Camden, N.J. The common theme is people of different cultures struggling, like Codrescu himself, to reach some sort of peace with the mainstream culture. These range from the religious to the absurd; at one point, he rents a machine gun from a former Penthouse model and the two of them go into the desert outside Las Vegas and chew up the landscape.

"Road Scholar"

Starring Andrei Codrescu.

Directed by Roger Weisberg.

Released by Samuel Goldwyn.

Unrated.

***

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