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More Does Not Mean Merrier in 'My 5 Wives'


There was, for a brief moment, hope for those laugh-starved souls who had worn out their VHS copy of "Back to School." Could it be? A new Rodney Dangerfield movie?

That moment ended during the first two minutes of "My 5 Wives."

Humor generally doesn't get any broader than Dangerfield's one-liners, but in his new film "My 5 Wives," each joke strikes like a creaky swinging barn door. It is, in short, a polygamy comedy in which an oft-divorced entrepreneur named Monte (Dangerfield) winds up with five hottie wives when he buys some land in Utah.

Alarmed by the age gap between men and women in movies? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

A sour heap of banal sex jokes are ladled onto this wafer-thin plot: A banker (John Byner) and mobster (Andrew Dice Clay) also want that land in Utah, and won't stop at anything--no matter how stupid--to get it.

To hold on to the land--a future ski resort--Monte has to adhere to a "religion" in which followers dress like the Amish, have strict rules for behavior like the Mormons and treat women like property. To show that its heart is in the right place, the script by Dangerfield and Harry Basil shows the young wives liberated by a feminist self-help author, Dr. Van Dyke (Molly Shannon) and a trip to a Las Vegas male strip bar.

It's hard to tell if "My 5 Wives" is so completely dumb that it's impossible to be offended by it, or so completely offensive that it's just dumb.

There's nary a four-letter word in the dialogue, or any nudity, and no actual bloodshed. There's also mismatched lighting, community theater acting and direction in the style of "Love Boat: The Next Wave." And most unfortunately, there is the lingering feeling that it's only out of respect (really) for 77-year-old Dangerfield that Shannon and Jerry Stiller make appearances.

Opening in a handful of theaters, "My 5 Wives" is clearly just taking the scenic route to the video store shelves. The Dangerfield-desperate may seek it out, though they'd be smarter to take yet another look at "Back to School."

* MPAA rating: R, for sex-related humor. Times guidelines: No nudity; some cartoonish violence; nonstop crude sex jokes.

'My 5 Wives'

Rodney Dangerfield: Monte Peterson

Andrew Dice Clay: Tony Morano

Molly Shannon: Barbara Van Dyke

John Byner: Preston Gates

A Blue Rider Pictures and Redwood Films production. Distributed by Artisan Entertainment. Director Sidney J. Furie. Producer John Curtis. Screenplay by Harry Basil and Rodney Dangerfield. Director of photography Curtis J. Petersen. Editor Saul Pincus. Composer Robert Carli. Running time:1 hour 40 minutes.

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