'Mr. Magoo' lacks charm

December 25, 1997|By Achy Obejas | Achy Obejas,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

You have to wonder whose idea it was to bring Mr. Magoo, the lovable, totally unawares cartoon character, to life.

In the 1960s animated version, Jim Backus' Mr. Magoo, who didn't realize he was going blind, wasn't dumb, just too good-hearted. His life was so charmed that, no matter the mishap, he always landed safely.

Enter veteran actor Leslie Nielsen of "Naked Gun" fame and director Stanley Tong, whose filmography highlights include "Stone Age Warriors" and the Jackie Chan vehicles "Rumble in the Bronx," "Supercop" and "First Strike."

For the most part, this is a grandly ineffectual "Magoo," with none of the warmth of the original cartoon series and nothing really sharp or clever in its place.

Magoo's action antics have more to do with Kelly Lynch's bone-crunching turn as the mercenary jewel thief than any of the more common Magoo disasters. For Tong, action means what Chan does: kick to kill.

Another problem is that this "Magoo" can't seem to figure out if it's for kids or adults. Moreover, the violence is not funny or stylized in any way to suggest the kind of bouncy fortune that Magoo always had. Here it's deliberate, pointed and obviously painful. And guns are plentiful.

There are a few good moments. But those moments are rare and almost always asides.

And that disclaimer about offending blind people at the end: If it's meant seriously, it's unnecessary. If not, it's patronizing.

'Mr. Magoo'

Starring Leslie Nielsen and Kelly Lynch

Directed by Stanley Tong

Released by Walt Disney Pictures

Rated PG (violence)

Sun score: *

Pub Date: 12/25/97

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