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'Playing For Keeps' And Losing It All

October 06, 1986|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

The ads for "Playing for Keeps" (citywide) give so much space to the rock stars on the film's sound track that you have to assume the movie's distributors were adhering to the old maxim--if you have a lemon, make lemonade. Unfortunately, the music is almost as bad as the film, which is no small achievement. "Playing for Keeps" is a hapless, dimwitted film which--like "Flashdance" and dozens of other feeble imitations--follows the dreary adventures of a band of teens fighting to achieve a cherished dream.

Most of the vaguely plausible teen aspiration topics (giving up welding for a dancing career; making the Olympic gymnastics team) have already made it to the screen. So this time out, the film makers have conjured up a trio of hyperactive high schoolers who attempt to transform a crumbling old country hotel into a hip rock 'n' roll resort. Despite the presence of a greedy developer and hostile rural townsfolk, the threesome keep up the fight for their dream hotel, aided by an eccentric ex-con and a pretty, young farm girl.

It's an uplifting notion, but the movie has such a wildly improbable story line that we never work up the slightest interest in the kids' achievement. Despite the presence of three screenwriters and a pair of directors, the film is woefully bereft of any clever new wrinkles. (To give you some idea of the brain-power level here, when the kids need to raise money, they dress up as Boy Scouts and sell cookies.)

In addition to being technically inept (the movie's credit sequence looks like something put together in a kindergarten cinema class), the film makers haven't the foggiest notion of how to handle their actors. Daniel Jordano (who plays Danny, the kids' ringleader), easily the most annoying, has a ludicrously heavy Brooklyn accent.

The film has plenty of other gaffes. Danny has a black pal, Silk, who's (surprise) a fancy dancer, but he's the only boy without a love interest. And the farm girl (played by Mary B. Ward) is a witless caricature, one minute coyly resisting Danny's advances, the next minute throwing off all her clothes and jumping into a pond.

Enough embarrassing details. Here's some good news. If you insist on seeing this clumsy fantasy (rated PG-13 for language and nudity) you'll probably have plenty of leg room. On opening day at Mann's Westwood when the lights went down, this reviewer was the only person in the theater.

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