Directed by Christopher Cain. Starring Joe Pesci, Danny Glover, Rosanna Arquette, Willie Nelson, Lynn Whitfield, Nick Brimble. (1997, PG, 94 min.)
REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., June 6, 1997
Once you rule out the notion of ancestral destiny for an actor named Pesci, it's hard to figure how Gone Fishin' got made in this day and age. Ingratiating and sweet-natured to an almost surreal degree, this winsome buddy pic seems to have no place in a comedy marketplace where raunch, scorched-earth satire and heavy irony are the orders of the day. Niceness, I say, is a heinously underrated virtue, and the fact that so many talented actors found time and motivation to create this warm, frolicsome cocker spaniel puppy of a film raises them even higher in my esteem. But as much as I wanted to like Gone Fishin', an insuperable barrier stands in the way: It's just not all that funny. From the moment when lifelong fishing buds Joe and Gus (Pesci and Glover) hitch their boat to their vintage Barracuda and head for a dream fishing vacation in the Florida Everglades, the bubbly dialogue, Kodachrome-hued images and peppy score all signify Big Fun. It's a promise the script fails to deliver, though. The lads' adventures, which develop from their efforts to collect a $100,000 reward for helping bust a murderous gigolo (Brimble), play out as a never-ending setup with little comic payoff to speak of. There are some semi-amusing gags involving alligators, a runaway luxury boat, and Gus' sleepwalking tendencies, but nothing that had the child-dominated audience choking on their Sour Patch Kids from unbridled mirth. Arquette and Whitfield, as two women who've been jilted by Brimble's gigolo, pop in and out of the story but they have little to contribute comedically. Apparently, they're just around to give daddies a little visual reward for squiring a minivan full of kids out to the multiplex. Nelson adds a couple of funny moments, however, as a sort of mystical Dalai Lama of the rec fishing world. Okay, bottom line: I'm giving this thing two stars, resisting the urge to juice it up a half-star or more for its radical, in-your-face pleasantness. It made me smile, and that's something. Maybe the sequel will even make me laugh.