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CALLING MARIANNE WILLIAMSON

 
In the Lawrence Kasdan tradition of liberal malarkey, Mumford is pleasant. Capra-esque, the central reason for our interest in watching is Loren Dean, playing ingratiation to the hilt in the title role. You can’t determine the actor he most resembles—George Lazenby, who played Bond in On Her Majestys Secret Service, or Richard Thomas from “The Waltons.” I’m not too sure what the movie’s really pushing—that we all feel like fakes at some point in our lives, that we could all get away with being media-educated headshrinkers, that we’re deserving of a second chance? There might have been more substance had Kasdan used a “star” prominently opposite Dean. Ted Danson, for example, is thrown away after his bit and it hurts the movie because he’s the prime candidate for Mumford’s brand of therapy.  (Kept hoping he’d pop back in.) There’s a “shrugged shoulders” attitude—Kasdan isn’t paying too much attention to how he inadvertently betrays Mumford early on, when Mumford is revealing confidentialities about one of his patients to a Bill Gates-type. (This one has genuine innocence overriding his geekiness, unlike the MS predator.) Kasdan, who in real life sounds like Brando doing Truman Capote, is at low ebb wading through his own customary shallow depths.

Grand Canyon is very handsome—Owen Roitzman’s photography never strays from comfy clear and satisfying imagery. A relief from all that Short Cuts and Falling Down L.A. smog. Kasdan seems partially recovered from his fuzzy-headedness after the jaundiced Silverado, the chilly Accidental Tourist, the trying-way-too-hard-to-be-funny I Love You to Death. Co-written by Kasdan’s wife Meg, Grand Canyon isn’t as smartass clever as The Big Chill, but it’s as glossy shallow and humane—a Marianne Williamson kind of movie. The Kasdans have a character blabbering about providential miracles to make sure we don’t miss the spiritual point, thus explaining Chicago critic Don Selle’s comment that the movie “is a church named Our Lady of the Yuppies.” Alfre Woodard’s moments are beautiful examples of compression: though we really don’t know much about her, we sense—as she’s deep breathing to reduce her nervousness over her blind date with Danny Glover—just about everything. And Glover, the first “miracle worker,” became the first 90s modern black role model without the need to pounce us with violence. (Hallelujah!) Kevin Kline is less flitty this time around, and Mary McDonnell has some difficulties at the start: in a very rehearsed bit that could pass as spontaneity, she practically pirouettes to the toilet. (I just can’t get passed how she’s a cross between Jane Fonda and Grace Slick.) Steven Martin’s gray-white beard helps him through some impossibly verbose scenes. Loved James Newton Howard’s percussive theme—it’s as wooing and winning as Roitzman’s camera. Still, Selle has it right when he wrote, “I was too exhausted to stay for Communion, which was being served in the lobby afterwards, while the Hollywood & Vine celestial choir sang over all those symbols hanging on every L.A. palm tree.”

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