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Movie Review : New James Bond At The Same Old Pop-pop Stand

July 31, 1987|SHEILA BENSON | Times Film Critic

It was the editor on the phone. "The new Bond movie review."

"Yes?"

" Where is it??? "

"What do you mean, where is it? Don't you have it?"

"We don't have it because you didn't send it," the voice said with a certain edge to it.

"Good grief, I suppose I didn't. I do remember seeing the movie--forgettable title."

" 'The Living Daylights.' "

"See what I mean?"

"You couldn't forget the film--they have a new James Bond."

"Right, right. So they do. Lovely fellow. Rugged. Smart. Dark. Dalton's his name--Timothy. Not un-Bond-like, if you can put Sean Connery out of your mind. I never could. But things change, no? Non ? Nyet ? Connery's on to other things, and we're . . . still here at the same pop stand. Pop, pop, pop. Boom, boom, boom. Tricky cars. Tricky jeeps. Tricky cellos. KGB, BMT, BMW, BLT. 007, 711, 911. It all begins to slide together. We've been doing this a long time, James and I."

"Twenty-five years," the editor said, evenly.

"You're joking! Well then, you see what I mean. And Dalton is splendid, but there it all is again: hurtling cars, parachutes, ski troops, paratroops, troops of toy soldiers, troops of Afghan freedom fighters, missives, missiles, heroin, heroines. This time, you know, the heroine plays the cello."

"Maryam d'Abo."

"You saw the movie!"

"I'm an editor. I read the press kit. Go on, surely you remember something more."

"Well . . . Yo-Yo Ma's career is still safe, but she certainly is beautiful." The phone crackled ominously in my hand. I went on hurriedly, "I remember thinking that Europe turns out an awful lot of good actors, only to see them pop up, snarling at James Bond. It must be something like brain drain. It's Jeroen Krabbe this time. Dutch, but he's really got that old Klaus Maria Brandauer style. Unafraid to be r-e-a-l-l-y b-i-i-g, if you catch my drift."

"Anything else?"

"I remember brooding for quite a while about James using a $150,000 Stradivarius cello for a toboggan. I can see that fad sweeping Juilliard around January--'It's OK, we saw James Bond do it.' And then afterward, d'Abo played her little heart out on that same cello, with a bullet hole right in it. 'This is a matter for Yo-Yo Ma'--those were my actual notes. But after that . . . everything just becomes Lego blocks."

"No cardiac-arrest stunts? No great gadgets? None of the old gang?"

"You could doze through this opener--the real stomach-clutcher doesn't happen until the last 10 minutes, and this is a 130-minute movie. We won't speak about the new Moneypenny . . . if they can keep dear old Q, they could have Simonized the real Moneypenny."

I could feel editorial attention wandering.

"Q's gadget," I said suavely, "is an exploding key ring." Aha! A gasp.

"Are we to infer thrift?"

Editors are ever alert for trends. It's in their blood.

"Thrift, from a Broccoli production? Good heavens, no! The Aston Martin does all its old tricks: rolls over, fetches, kvetches , spits tacks, inscribes circles in the ice, does obligatory school figures. It's just a little, you know, tired by now. This key ring thing is kind of cute. James has to whistle to make it work . . . it must be hard to keep your pucker under stress. You suppose Dalton had to show them he could keep his, to get the part?"

The connection got a little weird at this point, so I thought I'd better bite the bullet. So to speak.

"Look, I don't know how to say this, but after 25 summers of hanging around together . . . after everything he's taught me, all those golden memories, all those martinis, shaken not stirred."

The silence was not golden.

"Well?"

"I feel just rotten about this, but I'm afraid I've outgrown James. When you talk to him about this--and I know you will--be kind."

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