Foul Play review by Mike Long

Childhood memories are very precious things which should always be cherished. However, some old memories can be highly suspect, such as the recollection of movies seen as a child. Who amongst hasn't revisited a childhood favorite as an adult and found the movie to be quite disappointing, and nothing like we remembered it? That was the case for me with the Goldie Hawn-Chevy Chase vehicle Foul Play. And another fond memory is crushed.

Goldie Hawn stars in Foul Play as Gloria Mundy, a shy librarian whose recent divorce has made her somewhat reclusive. While driving to her home in San Francisco, she picks up a stranded motorist named Scotty (Bruce Solomon), who acts very nervous and slips a pack of cigarettes into Gloria's bag. Gloria likes this man and asks him to meet her later at the movies. When Scotty arrives at the theater, he's been shot and dies Gloria's arms. But, before the police can arrive, the body disappears. Later that week, two different men attempt to kill Gloria on two separate occasions. Following the second attack, she calls the police, who send Detective Tony Carlson (Chevy Chase) and his colleague Fergie (Brian Dennehy) to assist her, but as she can produce no bodies, no weapons, and no motives, they have little reason to believe her. When Gloria finally produces some evidence of the crimes, she and Tony discover a plot to commit a major assassination right in San Francisco and it's up to them to stop it.

You youngsters are probably quite familiar with the fact that HBO shows a movie multiple times during the month. But, 25 years ago, their programming choices were much more limited and they would show the same movie over and over. It was during one of these cycles that I watched Foul Play at least ten times as a pre-adolescent and loved it. Watching the movie today, I can only credit my affection for the film to boredom and the fact that I hadn't seen many movies.

Foul Play isn't necessarily a bad movie, but everything in it screams "mediocre". Writer/director had written Harold & Maude and Silver Streak prior to making Foul Play, so he had some experience in the business (And he'd go on to make Nine to Five), but everything in this film feels very unstable. For starters, at two hours, the film is far too long and the pacing is snail-like at times, as the film fights to work in as many characters and sub-plots as possible. If the filmmakers could have stuck to the central plot, then the film would have faired much better. With these various subplots and characters, Foul Play veers off into too many directions and it's easy to forget why people are trying to kill Gloria. The car-chase filled finale, which I remember as being quite exciting, now seems to go on forever, and made the fast-forward button call out to me.

Chevy Chase, appearing in his first major motion picture after leaving Saturday Night Live appears for a moment early in the film, but doesn't return for about 40 minutes. Hawn was an established actress by 1978, but she has trouble carrying the film by herself, and her acting is quite wooden in many scenes. The scenes with Chase and Hawn hold little chemistry and when the inevitable romance arrives, we hardly care. The true saving grace in the film is the late Dudley Moore who appears in two scenes as bumbling pervert Stanley Tibbets. His scenes are every bit as funny as I remembered and I wish that the film had been about him instead of Gloria. Foul Play is a good example of an overdone 70s film which could have used a lot of editing and more central story (and more Moore).

Foul Play lands on DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Given the film's age, the transfer looks pretty good. The picture is clear and relatively free from grain and defects from the source material. However, there is evidence that a great deal of noise reduction was used in the transfer and artifcating is noticeable in most every scene. The flesh-tones are waxy and there is visible haloes around most objects. The colors are fair, although somewhat pale at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, but the surround effects are quite weak and only make their present known during the finale. The disc also contains the film's original mono track, which sounds just fine. There are no extra features at all on this DVD.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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