THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Saturday, September 14, 1996 TAG: 9609130062 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E3 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: 55 lines
IF YOU'RE going to promise magic, you better be sure to pull a rabbit out of the hat.
``Bogus,'' the new film directed by veteran Norman Jewison, doesn't hit the mark. Billed as a ``comedy-fantasy-drama,'' it is an outright effort to make a family-friendly movie that is magical without being sentimental. While we appreciate the effort, the result is so forced and slow that it seldom works.
Whoopi Goldberg's boisterous and unique style is subdued by an ultra-cynical character who is stymied when she inherits a 7-year-old boy. ``I haven't a motherly bone in my body,'' Hannah, the caterer from Newark, N.J., moans as she gets parking tickets while trying to taxi her newfound charge to school.
The boy's mom (Nancy Travis) was a wholesome Las Vegas showgirl before she was killed in an automobile accident, leaving Hannah, her foster sister, as the only living relative. In adjusting from the glitz of Vegas to the darkness of Newark, the boy (Haley Joel Osment of ``Forrest Gump'') has understandable problems. He invents an imaginary ``friend'' he calls Bogus.
Since it is common for children to have imaginary playmates, it's a great idea, but Jewison, who directed such big productions as ``Moonstruck'' and ``Fiddler on the Roof,'' seems intent on avoiding the soft sides of the story. Whoopi's cynicism works perfectly in counteracting any overdose of sweetness but, at the same time, the film never develops any real heart.
French star Gerard Depardieu is cast as the imaginary Bogus. He's a big bear of a man and he blusters with likable abandon, urging her, unseen and unheard, to pick up the kid and ``geeve him a beeeg kiss.'' Depardieu, though, is no Maurice Chevalier. He's a likable but down-to-earth fellow. The difference shows when he's asked to deliver monologues that sound as if they came from ``Gigi.''
It's a shame, given the promising teaming, that the two stars don't get to interact until the last one-third of the movie. When they do, they try a big dance number that looks patently silly because it came out of nowhere.
Borrowing a little from the career-woman mom of ``Baby Boom,'' ``Bogus'' more clearly wants to be like ``Harvey,'' the 1950 movie in which James Stewart ran around with a 6-foot-tall rabbit that no one else could see.
That movie effectively convinced us that the imagination can be a wonderful, and funny, thing. ``Bogus'' moves much too slowly, and too predictably, to have the same magic - or any magic at all. ILLUSTRATION: MOVIE REVIEW
Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Gerard Depardieu, Haley Joel Osment, Nancy
Director: Norman Jewison
Screenplay: Alvin Sargent
MPAA rating: PG (mild language, death of a parent)
Mal's rating: ** by CNB