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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Don't Tell Her It's Me' Could Use Talent Better

September 21, 1990|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Don't Tell Her It's Me (citywide) is so dreadful you have to wonder what such established players as Steve Guttenberg, Jami Gertz, Shelley Long and Kyle MacLachlan, in accepting this script, have turned down that could have been any worse. The same goes for director Malcolm Mowbray, best known for "A Private Function," one of the funniest British comedies of the past decade.

What was it that attracted these talented people to Sarah Bird's adaptation of her novel "The Boyfriend School?" In his initial scenes, Guttenberg is virtually unrecognizable--thanks to Andy Schoneberg's special makeup effects--as a pale, puffy, overweight, completely bald young cartoonist named Gus who is recovering from Hodgkin's disease.

Neither he nor his romance-novelist sister Lizzie (Long) are shown to be aware that it is a kind of miracle that he has survived. Instead, Gus is feeling sorry for himself for his temporarily unattractive appearance. Meaning to cheer him up, Lizzie introduces him to Gertz's Emily, a journalist who is doing an article on her. Given Gus' bad toupee and Emily's ignorance of his illness, she is understandably unimpressed, but it's love at first sight for Gus and Lizzie sets about whipping him back into shape.

In due time Gus regains his pre-disease appearance, but that's not enough for the inventive Lizzie. She insists that he must pass himself off as a dashing New Zealand biker, complete with Kiwi accent and long hair, in order to sweep Emily off her feet.

Enough already. Surely you get the idea by now that "Don't Tell Her It's Me," which wastes its beautiful Charleston, S.C., settings as surely as it does its actors, is a mite contrived. Worse than that, it's cruel and stupid at virtually every turn. What do we make of Lizzie, a mother who calls her young daughter "Piglet"?

No wonder, furthermore, the child (played by Caroline and Sally Lund, apparently identical twins) is nearly mute when her mother spells out in clinical detail the potentially fatal consequences of her every act of childish curiosity. Why is Emily made to seem so dumb as to not see through the transparent caddishness of her editor (MacLachlan)? Why ever was this pointless, tasteless film made in the first place?

'DON'T TELL HER IT'S ME'

A Hemdale Film Corp. presentation. Executive producers John Daly, Derek Gibson. Producers George G. Braunstein, Ron Hamady. Director Malcolm Mowbray. Screenplay Sarah Bird; based on her novel "The Boyfriend School." Camera Reed Smoot. Music Michael Gore. Production designer Linda Pearl. Costumes Carol Wood. Associate producer Chris Coles. Film editor Marshall Harvey. With Steve Guttenberg, Jami Gertz, Shelley Long, Kyle MacLachlan, Kevin Scannell.

Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

MPAA-rated: PG-13 (For adult situations, innuendo).

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