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Wrongfully Accused

Rated PG-13, 87 min. Directed by Pat Proft. Starring Leslie Nielsen, Richard Crenna, Kelly LeBrock, Melinda Mcgraw, Michael York, Sandra Bernhard, Aaron Pearl.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 28, 1998

I was wrong: There are worse things than Mr. Magoo. With any luck, this parody of The Fugitive and other on-the-lam thrillers will sound the death knell for the once-talented writer Proft (Naked Gun, Hot Shots!) and stall his nascent directing career in mid-inanity. Resoundingly unfunny, this is a film compiled out of the worst short ends and lame gags from, one presumes, better, more humorous films. Regardless, Wrongfully Accused's not-even-90-minutes running time elicited not a single chuckle from the audience I attended it with, instead producing a protracted series of groans and the sonorous shuffling of feet heading toward the exits. It's that bad. Nielsen, who seems to be sleepwalking through this, his comedic stock-in-trade, resorts to perpetually painful mugging, assaulting the camera with an uninspired series of rubber-faced grimaces, and displaying none of the inspired comic rhythms that got him this gig in the first place. As concert violinist Ryan Harrison, he's accused of the murder of Michael York's art patron Hibbing Goodhue and is subsequently pursued by an aging Crenna as police Lt. Fergus Falls (Crenna as Tommy Lee Jones is, at best, constipatory). There are dozens of cues lifted from The Fugitive -- none of which work -- and one North by Northwest gibe that I suspect will have Hitchcock twirling in his grave. The pantheon of forgotten stars who make up the rest of the cast only goes to explain why we forgot them in the first place: LeBrock as the evil temptress Lauren Goodhue evokes a horrid fascination in much the same way as a traffic accident, and York, well, it's been a long time since The Three Musketeers, and it shows. Relentlessly unpleasant, this is the sort of film that gives parody a bad name in general. After all the Airplanes, Naked Guns, and Hot Shots that have come out in the last decade-and-a-half, perhaps it's time for something new, i.e., a comedy that relies on plotting or characterization to drive its humor, and not just on a steady torrent of flatulence gags. The Farrelly Brothers (There's Something About Mary) and Trey Parker and Matt Stone (South Park) may be the saviors of millennial comedy in that respect, although their obvious penchant for bodily functions exceeds even that of the Proft/Zucker/Abrahams camp. Que sera sera; still, Wrongfully Accused is a misstep of terrific proportions, the cinematic equivalent of biting into an Eskimo Pie and finding half of Rip Taylor.
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