The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Monday, January 9, 1995                TAG: 9501070056
TYPE: Movie Review 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   61 lines


IT'S NICE TO know that Sinbad, the stand-up comic who once did a gig at Virginia Beach's Comedy Club, has work. But is it necessary that anyone sit through it?

``Houseguest,'' an old, tired plot with stale, witless jokes, overstays its welcome by at least 90 minutes.

The plot is a familiar one - the mistaken identity thing. It has heretofore been thought that it was foolproof.

Sinbad, playing a streetwise hustler who's always trying to get rich, gets in trouble when two loan sharks insist he repay the $50,000 he owes. He goes on the lam. At the airport, he's cornered by the two bumbling pursuers (the singularly unfunny Tony Longo and Paul Ben-Victor). Overhearing a suburban, well-dressed guy speculating on the missing houseguest he is there to collect, Sinbad decides to impersonate him.

Of course, it works all too easily, although any reasonably sane person wouldn't be fooled for a minute. Phil Hartman, as the smiling family man, hauls Sinbad home for the weekend and persistently sees him as a brilliant professional. Hartman's act gets old after his first scene.

The funniest character in the film is Sinbad's tattoo artist from the old 'hood, who keeps telephoning the home and being threatened by the villains. He's underused.

Much of the efforts at humor center around Sinbad not knowing who he's supposed to be impersonating. He takes a stab at speaking French and playing golf before he discovers that the missing guy is actually a famous dentist. Root canal work is funnier than some of these groaner jokes.

Even farce needs to have some semblance in believablity. Why doesn't Sinbad, who seems to be aggressive enough in other ways, simply tell them he is no longer a vegetarian - and get around the fact that he wants a hamburger?

Why doesn't the teen male who is so threatened by an oncoming train, simply get out of the car? Why doesn't Sinbad take the winning lottery ticket he has and simply pay off the $50,000 debt?

Of course, these questions wouldn't come up at all if the film moved fast enough so that we wouldn't have time to notice.

Sinbad proves to be such a common sense type of good guy that he teaches all the upper-middle class suburbanites a thing or two about living. This is a role Whoopi Goldberg has played a few times. The message, of course, is that we are all alike and can all learn from each other. It's an OK message, but do we have to have jokes this bad to go with it? ILLUSTRATION: ``Houseguest''

Cast: Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Jeffrey Jones, Kim Greist

Screenplay: Michael J. Di Gaetano and Lawrence Gay

MPAA rating: PG

Mal's rating: one and 1/2 stars

Locations: Janaf, R/C Main Gate in Norfolk, Lynnhaven 8, Pembroke

in Virginia Beach

by CNB