A prisoner of excess Review: Alicia Silverstone's film 'Baggage' is light on acting, plot and laughs.

August 30, 1997|By Michael Ollove | Michael Ollove,SUN STAFF

Alicia Silverstone may not be old enough to sip a beer legally, but that doesn't mean she can't be a Hollywood producer. That's what comes from becoming an international movie star at around the same time you qualify for a driver's license. Big-time studios are willing to hurl money at you to make sure you stay happy and keep appearing in their movies.

So, good for Alicia.

And bad for us.

Bad for us because "Excess Baggage," the maiden ship for Silverstone's First Kiss Productions, is full of leaks. It's lamely plotted, poorly acted and indifferently directed. As a producer, Silverstone has proven herself, well, clueless.

The film means to be a romantic comedy, although it's short on laughs, and the lovebirds -- Silverstone and Del Toro (excellent in "The Usual Suspects") -- never approach plausibility. None of the other characters measure up, either. Christopher Walken as loving and kind? Next Silverstone will cast Madonna as the Flying Nun.

As in "Clueless," Silverstone is again a spoiled rich girl. As Emily Hope, she swills Jack Daniel's from the bottle (she's underage, remember) and chain-smokes like Bette Davis. The reason for her bad behavior, we learn, is a remote, unloving father (Australian Jack Thompson), who places her a distant second to his international business dealings. But Emily has a plan to make him appreciate her. She's faking her own kidnapping.

Teen-age advice columns rarely promote this approach. It doesn't work out for Emily, either. After alerting the police, Emily settles into the trunk of her car to await her "release." That's precisely when Vincent the car thief (Del Toro) snatches her car.

Vincent is a kind of hapless Jimmy Dean, with sideways glances and a slow, mumbling speaking style. He also seems to suffer from Variable IQ Syndrome. At times, he's barely capable of finishing a sentence. The next thing you know, he's explaining that his failure with women is "because I always see the potential of failure." By the end, when he's expounding about self-realization, he's a fountain of "Father Knows Best" wisdom.

Having thrust the two together, "Excess Baggage" proceeds through the typical squabbling before the two unconvincingly discover that each is the answer to the other's plans. Police, thugs and others are after them, and very few of their actions make sense. Also, neither one pretends very strenuously that they are ever in any danger. And Silverstone's petulance wears thin shortly after the opening credits.

Harry Connick Jr. adds a bit of humor as Vincent's yuppie partner, but James Turturro ("NYPD") embarrasses himself as a thug chasing the lovers because Vincent owes him money. Then there is Walken as Emily's Uncle Ray, some sort of international assassin who has a paternal love for Emily that her own father can't summon. Christopher Walken as a soft touch. Only a rookie producer could imagine that.

'Excess Baggage' Starring Alicia Silverstone, Benicio Del Toro and Christopher Walken

Directed by Marco Brambilla

Released by Columbia Pictures

Rated PG-13 (profanity)

Sun score: **

Pub Date: 8/30/97

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