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Prime-Time Flicks

November 19, 1995|Kevin Thomas

The whimsical, poignant and very popular first Back to the Future (KTLA Monday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m.) finds small-town youth Michael J. Fox accidentally sent back 30 years, where to his chagrin he discovers his mother is crazy about him rather than his own father.

In that 1990 blockbuster Home Alone (NBC Thursday at 8 p.m.), an 8-year-old (Macaulay Culkin) is inadvertently left behind by his parents when they jet to Paris for Christmas. The lad winds up foiling a pair of bumbling thieves (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). Some of the slapstick works on a fitful Three Stooges level, but the basic idea--an abandoned child defending himself against intruders--is a bit much. Chris Columbus directed from a script by--who else?--John Hughes.

In White Men Can't Jump (Fox Thursday at 8 p.m.), Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes, charming and believably athletic, are the Laurel and Hardy of the half-court game, a couple of champs at pickup basketball.

As the infamous Dennis Mitchell in the 1993 version of Dennis the Menace (NBC Saturday at 8 p.m.), little Mason Gamble isn't very menacing, but his bemused peskiness is a welcome contrast to the hyper Macaulay Culkin of the similar "Home Alone" films. Based on the Hank Ketcham comic strip, this John Hughes production is pretty tepid tomfoolery, but at least it's not assaultive and tries for giggles instead of guffaws. Walter Matthau is perfect casting as Dennis' grumpy neighbor and nemesis, Mr. Wilson.

The rambunctious and funny 1980 Melvin and Howard (KCET Saturday at 9 p.m.) is a lyrical and bittersweet piece of Americana, directed by Jonathan Demme. The screenplay by Bo Goldman is based in the story of Melvin Dummar, a man who gives a stranded Jason Robards a lift to Las Vegas and ends up being left $156 million in Howard Hughes' "Mormon Will." In the filmmakers' telling, the feckless Dummar (Paul Le Mat) is a nice guy with a dippy wife (Mary Steenburgen) just trying to get ahead.

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