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Movie Review

Good Effort, but This Team Ends Up Almost-'Champions'

September 17, 1999|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Rudolph might well have profitably set "Breakfast of Champions" that far back--or at the very least the early '70s, when the book came out and when the Vietnam War was raging--to give a contrasting edge to Vonnegut's concern with raging consumerism, a by-now-familiar target. (That gifted composer Mark Isham incorporates a clutch of exotic Martin Denny standards from the '50s is inspired and adds to the feeling that the further back in the past, the better for this material.)

As it is, "Breakfast of Champions" is too in-your-face, too heavily satirical in its look, and its ideas not as fresh as they should be. For the film to have grabbed us from the start, Rudolph needed to make a sharper differentiation between the everyday world his people live in and the vivid world of their tormented imaginations. You wish that Dwayne and Harry, so brilliantly played by Willis and Nolte in all their pain and ludicrousness, could have seemed more real and less caricatured. Ironically, "Breakfast of Champions" was filmed largely in Twin Falls, Ida., which is the name of a current venturesome film about conjoined brothers--and one which handles feelings of longing and desperation in a more believable universe than the one depicted here.

* MPAA rating: R, for sexuality and for some language. Times guidelines: language, adult themes and situations.

'Breakfast of Champions'

Bruce Willis: Dwayne Hoover

Albert Finney: Kilgore Trout

Nick Nolte: Harry Le Sabre

Barbara Hershey: Celia Hoover

A Buena Vista Pictures release of Hollywood Pictures and Flying Heart Films presentation. Director Alan Rudolph. Producers David Blocker and David Willis. Screenplay by Rudolph; based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Cinematographer Elliot Davis. Editor Suzy Elmiger. Music Mark Isham. Visual effects supervisor Janet Muswell. Costumes Rudy Dillon. Production designer Nina Ruscio. Art director Randy Eriksen. Set decorator K.C. Fox. Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes.

Exclusively at the Avco Cinema, 10840 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood, (310) 777-FILM (No. 330); the AMC Century 14, 10259 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City Shopping Center, (310) 553-8900; and the Beverly Center Cineplex, Beverly and La Cienega boulevards, (310) 777-FILM (No. 172) or (310) 652-7760.

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