1997, PG, 87 min. Directed by Stanley Tong. Starring Leslie Nielsen, Kelly Lynch, Ernie Hudson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Nick Chinlund, Malcolm Mcdowell, Miguel Ferrer.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 26, 1997
I know I'll go to heaven when I die because I've already been to Mr. Magoo. From the director of Jackie Chan's Supercop and Rumble in the Bronx comes this disastrously bad live-action version of the not-very-revered Sixties cartoon. Nielsen once again mugs it up -- badly -- as Quincy Magoo, the perpetually befuddled socialite-cum-myopic bumbler. The plot has Magoo being pursued by jewel thief Luann (Lynch) and FBI agent Gus (Hudson) after the millionaire (accompanied by his chunky bulldog Angus) accidentally walks off with a priceless gem from a botched museum heist. Really, all I could think about was how the stars of Wagon Train, Drugstore Cowboy, and A Clockwork Orange have fallen so far that they're stuck in Grade Z pabulum like this. Ostensibly a collection of vintage slapstick gags (Magoo narrowly avoiding falling off a boat, a building, a car, ad nauseam), the problem here is that Nielsen does little else to flesh out the cartoon character. His leaden impersonation of the late, great Jim Backus (who supplied Magoo's voice in those old cartoons) is resoundingly, gratingly awful, and his prosthetic, balding noggin makes him look more like a post-op Elephant Man than a wealthy charmer. What an actress as talented as Lynch is doing here is a mystery to rival the Sphinx. As the thieving Luanne, she looks harried, nervous, and more than a little concerned about the state of her acting career -- and rightfully so. Tong's “everything and the kitchen sink” style of direction works well in the spastic, frantically paced world of Jackie Chan, but here it seems more panicked than anything else, leaving Nielsen to spin idly in the wind and totter on the edge of whatever precipice he runs into. It's a disastrous mix, and one that's only compounded by the dreadfully boring jewel-theft plotline. The script gives Nielsen and the others precious few verbal barbs (one has to think that this is because the original Magoo character did little except mistake parrots for telephones and the like), and after a while all the shameless mugging begins making you feel listless, tired, and more than a little annoyed that you were conned into Chez Magoo in the first place. It's a mess best left to the nitrate ashes of forgotten film and television history.