SPEECHLESS * Directed by Ron Underwood. Written by Robert King. Produced by Renny Harlin & Geena Davis. Photography, Don Peterman. Production design, Dennis Washington. Music, Marc Shaiman. Cast: Michael Keaton, Geena Davis, Christopher Reeve, Bonnie Bedelia, et al. An MGM release. 98 min. Rated PG-13.
Question: Another low rating. Are you watching films that you know you won't like just to be nasty and elitist?
Answer: Not at all. I try to avoid movies that I feel will be poor, but I had high hopes (the title of a good British film, by the way) for "Speechless."
Q: Why was that?
A: Because I had seen another picture by director Ron Underwood, an off-the-wall sci-fi comedy called "Tremors" that was like a tongue-in-cheek update of 1950s monster movies. And I knew he had done "City Slickers," which I was unable to catch.
Q: Are directors your only clue?
A: The "only" one, no, but a key factor. I also went for Michael Keaton who was good in the amusing "Gung Ho," wildly funny in "Beetlejuice," impressive in the serious "Clean and Sober and diabolical in the underrated "Pacific Heights."
Q: What about Geena Davis?
A: Likable too. She's not just the cutie who has the second best overbite in films (after Gene Tierney), she can act too. (But I noticed in "Speechless" that her teeth have grown. Just asked my friendly dentist about this, he said it wasn't possible. Could it be the camera angles?) Q: I haven't seen "Speechless" but from what I read it is about two speechwriters who fall in love while working for senatorial candidates (one Republican, one Democrat) who are competing in New Mexico. Isn't this a rip-off of the Mary Matalin-James Carville rivalry and romance?
A: The filmmakers insist that screenwriter Robert King had set out to write a 1940s style comedy -- a la Tracy and Hepburn, I suppose -- back in 1989. One must always believe what studios say.
Q: Who is Robert King?
A: Don't know much about him. He wrote the independent movies "The Nest," "Under the Boardwalk," "Blood Fist," "Phantom of the Mall," "Silk 2." And recently, his first studio film, "Clean Slate," with Dana Carvey.
Q: Any comments on those pictures?
A: No. I might meet Mr. King some day and he could be a nice guy.
Q: Back to your rating. I saw some reviews in major papers that gave two stars to this film. Are you a Mr. High-and-Mighty who wants to show how superior your taste is?
A: You trying to provoke me? Not at all. I saw the same reviews, and, as in other cases, the writers, all honorable and talented people, said in effect that this was bad movie. Yet they gave it two stars. It's a mystery when the text says "poor" and the ratings say "fair".
Q: What are your objections?
A: Artificiality. The couple meet cute. The situation is forced. What's supposed to be farcical lacks the key ingredient of farce, timing. Some scenes are good but too many of those are mis-timed too. The actors all act as if they were acting. (But they are better than their materil). The film thinks that agitation equals humor. The political candidates are phonies and jerks, but undeveloped ones. There are dead spots. The misunderstandings are unbelievable. The ending is incredibly, embarrassingly dumb. It vaguely recalling that other Geena Davis film, the infinitely better "Hero."
Q: What are the good things?
A: 1) The music of "Speechless" is by Marc Shaiman, who scored "Sleepless " (in Seattle, that is). Whether his or just chosen by him, there are some lovely Mexican love-songs. 2) Some bits about groping on the front seat of a small car are funny. 3) The Keaton-Davis electricity sparks a few times, mostly when they are near the car's spark plugs. 4) The car itself, a vintage, red British two-seater convertible ( perhaps a Morgan of the 50s), is in mint condition, looks snazzy and roars beautifully.
Q: What's your bottom line opinion?
A: This comedy about spin doctors needed a script doctor.
Copyright Edwin Jahiel & The News-Gazette