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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Big Bad Mama' Sequel a Romp

February 13, 1988|LEONARD KLADY

"Big Bad Mama II" (citywide) ranks as one of the strangest sequels ever to crash through a roadblock.

In the 1974 original, widow Wilma McClatchie (Angie Dickinson) had strayed into a life of crime back in the early '30s, following the death of her bootlegger boyfriend. She also drags along her two daughters--Polly and Billy Jean.

In the new installment Dickinson again returns as Wilma with two daughters named Polly and Billy Jean (played by new actresses). However, this Wilma's entry into a bank-robbing career occurs from a need for righteous revenge. In its opening frames, we see her husband shot down by police attempting to evict the McClatchies from their farm.

So, the sequel exists on a parallel plane with its predecessor. Moving one leap of logic beyond, we enter into a free-wheeling, bullets-flying saga steeped in cornpone philosophy and liberal politics. While other tales of America's lawless '30s have played the action with a wry smile, "Big Bad Mama II" is the first genuine moral fairy tale of the genre. Robin Hood would play like a clinical document next to this film.

The deceivingly simple story pits Wilma against Morgan Crawford (Bruce Glover), the banker who foreclosed her home and is now running for Texas governor. Mama tells her girls: "The best way to kill a man is to destroy his dreams." So, among other things, she kidnaps his son and turns him into a willing gang member. Also abetting in the plan is an Eastern journalist (Robert Culp) who sees the thieving clan as his front-page ticket.

Director and co-writer Jim Wynorski is an apt purveyor for this chock-a-block entertainment. Although apparently strapped with a minuscule budget, he has thrown caution to the wind and piled on as much action and humor as possible to misdirect our attention from the implausible, improbable and illogical that permeates every page of his script.

"Big Bad Mama II" (MPAA-rated: R for nudity, violence and language) is a campy romp and a spirited, cheap exercise for ambitious talents. One's memory may be fading but it feels like the "Mama II" film makers have created twice the fun with only half the resources of the original at their disposal.

'BIG BAD MAMA II' A Concorde Pictures release. Executive producer Lois Luger. Producer Roger Corman. Director Jim Wynorski. Screenplay R. J. Robertson and Wynorski. Music The Pocono Rangers. With Angie Dickinson, Robert Culp, Danielle Brisebois, Julie McCullough, Jeff Yagher, Bruce Glover.

Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes.

MPAA-rated: R

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