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Movie Reviews : 'Happy Hour'

June 09, 1987|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

In 1980's "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," writer-director John De Bello tried to make an over-the-edge travesty of bad movies: satire disguised as a typically inept low-grade shlocko-atrocio bomb. But after suffering through the '80s, maybe he's decided it's better to join them than lick them. "Happy Hour" (citywide) is a bad movie pure and simple.

Not that De Bello has lost his aspirations to satire. In "Happy Hour," he's after some hulking targets--mass consumerism, venal corporations, yuppie vacuity, movie violence, ads and addictions. Though he doesn't miss everything, his lances tend to bounce off squishily--just like those killer tomatoes.

The premise: A one-time college idealist-turned-beer-chemist accidentally discovers a secret ingredient that makes his Marshall Beer so wildly addictive that children begin pouring it on their cereal and the populace en masse becomes hopeless sots. Outraged, his erstwhile idealist-schoolmate heists half the formula for a rival beer--El Macho--triggering a full-scale brew brouhaha, complete with saboteurs and commando squads.

There are some good actors buried in here, including Jamie Farr on a macho binge, Richard Gilliland in a Bob Crane vein and Debi Fares--who is so loonily attractive as the dumb blond deluxe that you'd like to see her try something less demeaning.

But you can't satirize consumerism very well while succumbing to all the worst sellouts in movies. Nor can you satirize much of anything with gags pitched at the level of "Jokes for the John," and ensemble acting styles that seem derived from close study of "Hee Haw" and the Mighty Carson Art Players--on off nights.

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