Hairier plot could turn this chump to champ Movie review: 'Ed' is a weak comedy about a chimp that plays third base. It'll never make the playoffs.

March 15, 1996|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,SUN FILM CRITIC

I don't know about you, but sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, sweat-soaked and full of turbulent nightmares, and my lips form a perfect O as a blast of terrible human pain blows from my lungs like the screamer on the bridge in Munch's famous painting. And what I'm screaming is: "I WANT ANOTHER MONKEY MOVIE!"

Well, to the rescue comes "Ed" and as my friend Bonzo once said, "There you go again!"

It's not even a true monkey movie, like "Dunston Checks In," which, for all its blandness, at least featured an authentic orangutan of surpassing strangeness, beauty and charm. In "Ed" we get a guy in a monkey suit.

OK, it's a chimp suit. OK, it's a pretty good chimp suit, so good that for a while you're wondering if they haven't implanted the brain of a Ph.D in a chimp, because he does so perfectly what they ask of him. But when he starts executing double somersaults off a trampoline and catching line drives, while smiling directly at the camera and lip-synching the lyrics from "Tristan und Isolde," you begin to suspect it ain't a monkey brain under that wrinkled, hairy dishpan face.

The human one is Matt LeBlanc, of "Friends," and here doing a passable imitation of Matthew Broderick. LeBlanc plays Jack "Deuce" Cooper, a minor league pitcher who has a tendency to choke when there are men on base. His curve straightens out and ends up nine counties away, bouncing on the Kmart parking lot, while the bases clear themselves and manager Jack Warden glares disconsolately.

Then the team's smarmy general manager hires a chimp as mascot, the chimp is assigned to Deuce as a roomie, the chimp gets into a game and proves to have better hands than Brooksie, and Deuce starts winning. That's it. No wrinkles, no real surprises, very little charm, only what might be called a minimal ,, level of watchability, based on the sophistication of the chimp illusion and the low-key likability of LeBlanc.

Even for what it is, it could have been more. For example, the re-creation of minor league culture is hardly credible, and the sense of baseball is completely generic. Might not it have worked better if they related Deuce's problem to something technical and Ed somehow had to show him the way to solve it, so we had a sense of the craft of the game and of Deuce's improvement and growth of mind and character?

About on the level of an After School Special put together by people in a real hurry to get on with their lives, "Ed" plays pretty dead for all except the very dumb at heart.

'Ed'

Starring Matt LeBlanc and Jack Warden

Directed by Bill Coutourie

Released by Universal

Rated PG

Sun Score: **

Pub Date: 3/15/96

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