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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

SEPTEMBER 21, 1998: 

PASSION IN THE DESERT. Rather astonishingly, this film is about a man who falls in love with a leopard. The setting is Egypt, the time is the late 18th century, and soldier Augustin Robert (Ben Daniels) gets lost in the dunes but is miraculously saved by a pretty spotted kitty cat. Perhaps she likes his over-tanned skin, or his Hercules-style mane of flowing bleached hair. Or his shaved chest. Or his big muscular body. The two set up housekeeping, but naturally such a love is not destined to last, even if the man involved is a French man. This movie certainly gets points for being strange, and for having a cast that consists almost entirely of a man and a four-footed creature. There is little dialogue. Yet despite this, it's curiously flat and lackluster. Dare I say it--there's just no chemistry between Daniels and that darn cat. --Richter


SIMON BURCH. Hollywood has the Oscars on its mind, and, since films about mentally and/or physically challenged people are surefire Oscar bait (Children of a Lesser God, Rain Man, Forrest Gump), Disney goes for the jugular with a story about the very, very tiny Simon Burch (Ian Michael Smith). The unfortunate result is an assemblage of loosely related scenes which milk the shock value of Smith's physical appearance in an attempt to force viewers onto an emotional roller coaster. A weak plot does surface about two-thirds into the movie, but by then the audience has already been subjected to at least a dozen references to Simon as a miracle/hero/instrument of God, a Forrest Gump-ian use of an overly obvious soundtrack, and a whole lotta wooden child acting (not Smith). The real tragedy of the film is that its dramatic impact derives not from Simon's character, and the obstacles a norm-obsessed society tosses his way, but rather from exploiting how different Smith looks. Jim Carrey provides cutesy narration and the always likable Oliver Platt contributes to the few digestible scenes. --Higgins


SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS. This manipulative, cautious and contrived comedy came out of the stifling Sundance Workshop, and it shows. Like every other movie these days, it's set in the '70s. The won't-this-be-touching story focuses on a young girl coming of age, and her efforts to accept her body and her family, who are a little off-beat, but not so off-beat as to challenge the audience's beliefs or sensibilities. Alan Arkin does his usual decent job playing the aging single father. (God forbid there should be a single mother in a lighthearted film...single mothers equal tragedy and pain.) The jokes are all reasonably funny, there's enough sex to make it titillating but not enough to push it into controversy, and there's a general lack of plot. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this intentionally forgettable film are the body doubles: both Marissa Tomei and newcomer Natasha Lyonne must show their breasts at least twice, but their faces are never in the shot, and the actresses hired to stand in for them sport bodies with no visual relation to the ones they're supposed to represent. A real oddity, that: There's Tomei, she gratuitously opens her robe, and suddenly there's a shot from the neck down of someone else's body. I guess if you're doing tits-for-tits-sake you might as well bring in the best you can find, and damn the torpedoes. Other than the curious interest that provides, though, the film refuses to take any chances or do anything risky, and winds up being so benign as to be a bit boring. Perhaps this can be blamed on the heavy and notoriously treacly hand of Robert Redford, who produced this cowardly, if somewhat humorous, project. --DiGiovanna


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