'The Substitute'**

Movie reviews

Rated RIn "The Substitute," Tom...

April 19, 1996|By Stephen Hunter 'Kids in the Hall'

'The Substitute'

**; Rated R

In "The Substitute," Tom Berenger, still sporting the artificial scars that mottled his face in "Platoon," appears as a CIA cowboy-type who, when his school teacher-girlfriend is roughed up by dope dealers in a Dade County high school, presents himself for work the next morning in her stead. In his briefcase is the complete teacher's-helper kit: silenced pistols, night-scoped machine pistols, infrared goggles and ninja throwing stars.

There's some amusing reactionary potential here, at least for a politically incorrect hoot or two, as an old-fashioned tough guy with enough weaponry to take down a Soviet ICBM complex goes after today's coddled, rights-screaming, out-of-control youth. It could have been "Blackboard Jungle" as re-imagined by G. Gordon Liddy.

But the director, Robert Mandel, never really breaks through to the sensational nature of the material. The secret reptile part of you yearns to see Berenger's laconic Shale enforce classroom discipline with his Uzi and back up the no-talking rule with a Claymore mine.

But no. Rather, Shale tumbles quickly enough to the fact that more than routine violence is afflicting the school, that there is, in fact, a conspiracy. Soon he's got his team in place, and the school is wired and bugged; the bad guys retaliate by hiring their own commando team, and the movie ends in a completely gratuitous and unexceptional gunfest in the corridors of academe, a climax that has more to do with "The Guns of Navarone" than "Blackboard Jungle."

***; Rated R

The Kids in the Hall, whose TV show survives in reruns, have reunited for the film "Kids in the Hall Brain Candy," and it's full of the subversive, satirical humor fans have come to expect. More good news: There's an actual plot, and it's sustained for an entire movie!

Although the five guys known as the Kids play dozens of roles, male and female, Kevin McDonald's scientist character, Chris, is at the center of the story as the inventor of Gleemonex, the ultimate happy pill. David Foley ("News-Radio") is a corporate toady pushing for production of the pill, as is the pharmaceutical company's CEO (Mark McKinney, who also plays a spunky female talk-show host). Scott Thompson (the Officially Gay member of the group) portrays a repressed gay family man, as well as Mrs. Hurdicure, a patient who manifests some of the first side effects. And Bruce McCulloch plays characters ranging from Alice, Chris' love interest, to Grivo, a grunge rocker whose post-pill music video is a scream.

There are no politically correct jokes here. From hapless, drunken cops surprising a public restroom full of gay guys to Cancer Boy's pathetic yet hilarious conversation, the Kids push lots of buttons, and most of them produce laughs. "Brain Candy" isn't for the faint or fussy. But the hip and the flip should fill this prescription: See it.

Chris Kridler

'French Twist'

***; Unrated

The millions flocking to see "The Birdcage" might do well to consider "French Twist" before it gets remade with Michael Douglas, Melanie Griffith and Kathleen Turner, as directed by Paul Verhoeven.

This nifty French number, now at the Charles, is a farce, but more astutely handled than the lumpy Mike Nichols' blow-up of "Cage aux Folles." It's as light as a souffle and very waspish.

Premise: A philandering husband, who takes his wife for granted, comes home to discover she's taken a lover. The lover moves in, forcing him to compete to win her back, during which time he learns how much he really loves her.

Twist: Mon Dieu, the lover is an older lesbian, who's much tougher, smarter, funnier and more loving than the husband ever could be. He struggles to win her back. Much confusion ensues.

The movie, written, directed by and starring as the older gay woman Josiane Balasko, also features Victoria Abril as the housewife and Alain Chabrat as the cuckolder and cuckoldee. Balasko is particularly entertaining, with an impish quality that's almost vanished from American movies.

Pub Date: 4/19/96

Stephen Hunter

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