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Movie Review : Dreary Antics In 'Morgan Stewart'

February 28, 1987|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

Is "Morgan Stewart's Coming Home" (citywide) the quickest clone movie in recent memory? Ripping off John Hughes' "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" within a year?

No, to both questions.

"Morgan Stewart" is a tacked-on title for the 1985-made "Homefront"--and its only resemblances to anything by Hughes are the casting of Jon ("Pretty in Pink") Cryer as the hero, Paul ("Breakfast Club") Gleason as the villain, and a similar obsession with the allegedly adorable antics of suburban rich kids.

Pity poor Morgan. The son of a Republican U.S. senator, he has spent barely five minutes in five years with his social-whirling parents. Now, Mom and Pop, facing a tough reelection battle, pull him out of boarding school for a "super-family" media blitz. In Morgan's exile, though, he's become a regular kid: He adores horror films and has a chain saw autographed by Tobe Hooper.

What a guy! As Morgan, Cryer crinkles his nose, grins, shuffles, shrugs and makes winsome eyes incessantly; sometimes you worry he'll get herniated dimples. Yet the movie's stuporous flatness isn't Cryer's fault. The premise has promise, but the whole story is so slack, you could swear you've heard most of the jokes on dog food commercials.

Is it supposed to be funny when Morgan tells a therapist he's free basing Clearasil? What about those Soviet emigre servants--who conduct their conversations simultaneously in pidgin English and subtitled Russian? What are we supposed to make of Gleason's sleazy campaign manager, a super-right macho type working sub rosa for Sen. Stewart's liberal opponent, aided by the goose-stepping faculty and cadets of "Milhouse Academy?" (Talk about schizophrenia. . . .)

What, beyond the pressure of impending credits, accounts for the radical last-minute personality shift by the Stewarts? And why do Morgan and girlfriend Emily take showers together with their underwear on? Are they shy? Or just trying to save on laundry bills?

By the end, you realize these film makers aren't concerned with conventional logic. A locked-in Morgan spends an entire night trying to break open his bedroom door--though he's on the second floor and his window is open--then cuts his way out with the chain saw and runs right into the arms of his pursuers. Maybe logic isn't a high enough concept.

"Morgan Stewart" (PG-13) was directed by the fictitious "Alan Smithee"--and most of the direction seems as fictitious and nonexistent as the person (the script is less existent than either). There are, however, a few nice moments from ingenue Viveka Davis, doing a kind of semi-Demi Moore, a gravelly cutie. At one point she and Jon Cryer put on an impromptu nose-crinkling contest. Davis wins by a nostril. 'MORGAN STEWART'S COMING HOME'

A New Century/Vista Film Co. release of a Kings Road production. Producer Stephen Freidman. Director Alan Smithee. Script Ken Hixon, David Titcher. Associate producer Patrick McCormick. Camera Richard Brooks. With Jon Cryer, Lynn Redgrave, Nicholas Pryor, Viveka Davis, Paul Gleason, Andrew Duncan.

Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (parents are strongly cautioned; some material may be inappropriate for children under 13).

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