Page 10-The Michigan Daily- Monday, March 29, 1993
A feel-good movie falters
by John R. Rybock
When one realizes that "Born Yesterday," the new film
starring Melanie Griffith, is a remake of the 1950 film of the
same name, and that Judy Holliday won an Oscar for her
starring role, it seems strange that the current film seems so
Directed by Luis Mandoki; written by Douglas McGrath;
with Melanie Griffith, John Goodman and Don Johnson.
Granted, by the end of this feel-good film the audience
has had a reasonably enjoyable time. However, the problem
of the film lies in the fact that the filmmakers do not seem to
have put any thought into the update.
Billie Dawn (Griffith) is the "companion" to millionaire
Harry Brock (John Goodman). On a trip to WashingtonD.C.,
Billie's ditziness becomes a liability, so Harry hires brainy
journalist Paul Verall (Don Johnson) to teach her enough to
pass in the D.C. society.
Griffith's Billie is convincingly dumb. The problem is
that she is too dumb. There are no hints in the beginning that
there is a brain in that head just waiting to be enlightened.
There is a scene in which Billie shows her prowess at Gin
Rummy, but she is too good; in a game with a certain
randomness to it, her success comes off as luck. Also, as far
as the circle of the upper crust is concerned, is there so much
adifference between Washington and Chicago that this is the
first time Billie embarrassed herself at a party?
The greatest flaw is Harry. There are too many problems
with John Goodman's character - problems which seem
easily correctable with a little forethought. First of all,
Harry's relationship with Billie does not click. Love is blind,
so it seems reasonable that if he is blind to her faults at first,
then he should be in love with her. But except for a moment
when he states that he's crazy without her, all indications are
that he sees her as nothing more than a possession.
The second glaring flaw with Harry is that he is black-
and-white. Either he is a teddy bear or a grizzly, and there is
no in between. And he almost never changes on camera -
if he enters a scene mad, then he leaves a scene mad. And
several teddy bear moments seem thrown in as an attempt to
redeem his character. He's all braced for humiliation when
Billie gets a bunch of senators and their wives (yes, the
senators are all male) to sing her"Twelve Days ofChristmas"
about the Constitution. But Harry gets into it, and by the end
of the scene, he's bubbly with joy. Unfortunately, in the next
scene, he is madder than ever; the whole point of the previous
scene completely lost.
But with what the script gives them, all involved are
pretty good (except for a small part by Ben Bradlee, who is
not an actor, so we can forgive him). Melanie Griffith is fine,
Griffith's Billie is convincingly dumb.
...There are no hints in the beginning
that there is a brain in that head just
waiting to be enlightened.
and by the end, you're glad she's awakened, and you're
rooting for her. Don Johnson is understated as Paul, a nice
break from Sonny Crockett or Marlboro Man (or was he
Harley Davidson?). John Goodman gives a good perfor-
mance, but since he usually plays teddy-bear characters
(maybe it's the chipmunk cheeks), it's hard to be scared of
him, even when it is required.
All in all, there are a lot of problems with the film. But
(and this is a big "but"), it works at the end to make the
audience feel good. The last half hour is fun, especially
compared to the first hour. It redeems itself enough to make
the experience not a total waste; unfortuantely, it is not good
enough to go out of one's way to see.
BORN YESTERDAY is playing at Showcase.
Here we go againi Don and Melanie's sex life hits the big screen one more time.
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