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MOVIE REVIEW : An Oddball Odyssey in 'Homer and Eddie'

February 09, 1990|PETER RAINER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In Andrei Konchalovsky's "Homer and Eddie" (at the Cineplex Odeon, Century City), a brain-damaged man and an escaped mental patient pair up on a cross-country jaunt. I suppose a great movie could be made from this premise. Given the right combination of talents, a great movie could probably be made from any premise. Not this time, though. The story is booby-trapped, and the film makers leave no trap untripped.

Jim Belushi plays Homer, who was hit in the head with a baseball when he was a child. He lives alone in Arizona, where he works as a dishwasher, and hasn't seen his parents in 20 years. He sets out to visit them in Oregon. Eddie, played by Whoopi Goldberg, is on the run from a mental institution when she comes upon the hapless Homer. Together, they make their way in Eddie's junker across a symbolic American wasteland, stopping off periodically to accumulate life lessons.

The main lesson they learn is tolerance for each other's differences. Isn't it about time to refresh this misfits-on-the-road genre? (Things have gone way downhill since "La Strada," from which this film lifts liberally.) How about a movie featuring two people thrown together by circumstance who grow to \o7 hate\f7 each other? The subject matter of "Homer and Eddie," which has been in the can for over a year, is so close to satire that you regret the decision to play it straight. Particularly since Belushi and Goldberg are more adept at comedy than all this cornball squishiness.

What makes the squishiness so particularly repellent is that Eddie, aside from being a mental patient, also has an inoperable brain tumor. She has one month to live, and so apparently she feels justified in murdering whoever gets in her way. She pulls off several convenience-store killings in the R-rated "Homer and Eddie," and still the film makers try to palm her off as a poor soul. They carry "understanding" to lunatic extremes. When Eddie kills in order to get the money to pay for Homer's deflowering at a Nevada brothel, you know you're squarely in the hands of film makers every bit as nutty as their characters.

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