Actors can't save `Kahuna'

May 19, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

The big revelation of "The Big Kahuna" is that we're all salesmen, whether we're selling our products or ourselves. Forgive me for being underwhelmed.

Unimaginatively directed and too stagebound for the big screen, "The Big Kahuna" features Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito as industrial-lubricant salesmen determined to land a big client. They'd also like to break in their new partner, who has the peculiar notion there are more important things in life than the hard sell.

Spacey is Larry, a smooth talker who, when he's not pitching a product, is being brutally honest with anyone unfortunate enough to be within earshot. DeVito is recently divorced Phil, who just doesn't give a darn anymore. Newcomer Peter Facinelli is Bob, a God-fearing rookie who's neither as cynical as Phil nor as confident as Larry.

Unfortunately, try as these actors might, the story of Larry, Phil and Bob doesn't go anywhere. And that's an accomplishment, given the level of Spacey's and DeVito's performances.

Larry may be a blowhard and a know-it-all, but at least in Spacey's capable hands, it's hard to take your eyes off him. And DeVito gives Phil a gravity that makes it clear he's at what could be a fateful turning point. Less impressive is Facinelli, who never seems to get a handle on Bob.

"The Big Kahuna" posits itself as a character study of three working men at different stages of their careers. The problem is, none of the three are particularly sympathetic characters, regardless of how much the other two rub off on them -- or how hard the actors work.

`The Big Kahuna'

Starring Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, Peter Facinelli

Directed by John Swanbeck

Released by Lions Gate

Films Rated R (Language)

Running time 90 minutes

Sun score : **

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