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TV Reviews : Cute but Predictable Trip to 'Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven'

May 31, 1989|IRV LETOFSKY

You can tell by a cute title like "Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss" that you're going to get a lot of cute. And "Ollie etc." delivers 90 minutes of cute tonight on PBS' "American Playhouse" (9 p.m. on Channels 28 and 15).

It's from the pen of humorist Jean Shepherd, whose "A Christmas Story" feature film is something of a cult favorite. As a chronicler of Americana, Shepherd, who also plays a couple of characters in this adventure, must be drawing on his old family vacations from back home in Indiana. Though cute, this is sort of a compendium of how things used to be in a series of perilous episodes of one imperiled family on its way to Ollie's resort.

In the old overstuffed, piled-on red Chevy, whatever could go wrong went bad, including the fatted script, which employs the most predictable devices a viewer dared not hope for--the whining car-sick boy, the flat tire and overheated engine, the bee loose in the car, running out of gas, getting lost and ending up in a field.

The cast involves James B. Sikking as bumbling dad, Dorothy Lyman as the shrieking mom, Jason Clarke Adams as sniveling Randy and Jerry O'Connell (he was in the Rob Reiner film "Stand by Me") as Ralph, whose recollections these are, then narrated by Shepherd as the aged Ralph.

Some of the very older generation might enjoy the diversion. The best part is saved for last, when they all arrive at Ollie's and check into their cabin. Dad and Ralph walk out on the pier and survey the glazed lake. Then we imagine the two weeks of peace that lie ahead.

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