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Laramie Movie Scope: Always

Weak remake of A Guy Named Joe

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 13, 1990 -- ``Always'' is a modern remake of a World War II movie called ``A Guy Named Joe,'' while ``Hard to Kill'' is another high energy action film.

``Always'' has a star with a little less luster than Spencer Tracy, star of ``A Guy Named Joe,'' Richard Dreyfuss. Dreyfuss is a capable actor, but even with the help of the luminous Holly Hunter, this film about flying firefighters never really gets off the ground.

I felt like the guy who does film reviews for ``Saturday Night Live.'' You know: interested, interested, then, very interested, then not so interested, then bored, then very interested then, so what?

Holly Hunter does a terrific job as usual, but Richard Dreyfuss isn't given much to work with. He plays a guy who dies early in the film and then hangs around, unseen, affecting people's thoughts. The very concept of a spiritual back seat pilot lacks dramatic impact.

John Goodman is entertaining in his usual role as a big lug best buddy to the lead characters, but newcomer Brad Johnson seems a little unsure of himself as a romantic lead. He shows flashes of a screen presence, but hasn't found himself yet. Audrey Hepburn appears briefly as an angel, and thankfully seems less emaciated than she does in those world hunger television commercials. In general the cast tries hard, but the story lacks sufficient dramatic punch, just as ``A Guy Named Joe'' did.

The one advantage the remake has over the original is Steve Spielberg's winning director's touch. No director today is as deft as Spielberg is in the use of lighting to set the mood of a scene.

The scenes of aircraft flying through forest firestorms are spectacular. The photography and special effects are great. It is too bad Spielberg couldn't have brought some of his Industrial Light and Magic to ``A Guy Named Joe.'' He would have burned the silver screen down with aerial battles.

Veteran Jerry Belson (The Dick Van Dyke Show) wrote the screenplay and there are some nice gags to keep the story from being too stilted, but he and Spielberg got a little too cute at times, such as lines by John Goodman who actually said, ``If this was a movie ... '' and went on to tell a joke about fire bombers over Idaho.

The one thing you don't want to do in a movie that stretches its credibility as far as this one does is to remind people that it is only a movie. The audience is having a tough enough time suspending its disbelief.

``Always'' is a light, enjoyable piece of fluff with spectacular flying scenes and a dramatically flat story. On a scale of one to 10 it rates a six.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)