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Prime-Time Flicks

May 25, 1997|Kevin Thomas

Written by the hot team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, Mr. Saturday Night (NBC Sunday at 8:30 p.m.), a 1992 look at a half-century in the life and times of battling comic Buddy Young Jr. (Billy Crystal) is as funny a film as Crystal has done. He not only stars in the film but also makes his debut as a director--an instance of overreaching. Crystal spent nearly a decade developing the material on the Borscht Belt generation of stand-up comics who moved on to the plusher pastures of TV. While Crystal must be credited for the pains he has gone to show us the unappealing, egocentric side of Buddy, his heart isn't in making the comic a moral monster.

The Mosquito Coast (KCOP Friday at 8 p.m.), Peter Weir's 1986 film of Paul Theroux's novel, has that sense of the inexplicable, dangerous landscapes and mystical depths. With Harrison Ford--who goes magnetically over the top as anti-hero Allie: a survivalist inventor at war with modern society, who makes ice from fire and sets up a jungle utopia that fails. Allie is a modern Leatherstocking, but the fact that he brings his family along makes his story a tragicomedy.

With Body Snatchers (NBC Saturday at 9 p.m.) Abel Ferrara hasn't merely remade "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," he has re-imagined and reinvigorated it using the best of special-effects talent and cool directorial skill to make a splendidly creepy and unsettling piece of genre filmmaking. Ferrara's 1993 film is shrewdly set at an Army base in the South, where people are so habitually obedient that it is doubly difficult to determine who is a soulless pod and who is just following orders. With Gabrielle Anwar.

In the 1984 All of Me (KCET Saturday at 9 p.m.) Steve Martin proved himself a great physical comedian. the equal of Stan Laurel or Red Skelton. He's a browbeaten young attorney who finds himself inhabited by the soul of a rich, starchy heiress (Lily Tomlin) when a transmigration goes awry. Half his body is Tomlin's and half his own; Martin's physical being owns this concept with truly inspired dexterity and lunacy. Directed by Carl Reiner.

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