Film review: 'Mojave Moon'

Film review: 'Mojave Moon'
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A film whose obvious inspiration is Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild", "Mojave Moon" desperately tries to achieve the same balance of anarchic comedy and menace and never quite succeeds.

A gallery of likable performers try hard -- sometimes too hard -- to breathe life into the material, registering positive results only occasionally. Although the film should do well on video and cable thanks to the many names in the cast, theatrical prospects are iffy. The picture recently received its world premiere at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.

Danny Aiello brings his naturalistic charm to the lead role of Al McCord, a transplanted New Yorker who makes an excellent living selling cars in Los Angeles. Al has an easy life, tooling around town in his Lincoln Continental and whiling away the hours enjoying lunch with his cronies at the diner. One afternoon, a stunning young woman sitting at the next table catches his attention. Much to his friends' amazement, she beckons him to sit down with her, and before long they're back at his apartment.

Although Al can't believe his luck, it turns out things aren't that simple. What Ellie (Angelina Jolie) really needs is a ride out of town -- to the Mojave desert -- where she and her mother live in a trailer. The ever-affable Al agrees to take her, and soon he meets Ellie's charming mother (Anne Archer) and her weird and volatile boyfriend, Boyd (Michael Biehn). When Ellie abandons him to meet her boyfriend and Al attempts to drive home, he gets a flat tire and finds a dead body in the trunk of his car. Afraid of being fingered for the killing, he heads back to Los Angeles and soon discovers Ellie and her mother on his front doorstep -- both being pursued by the increasingly maniacal Boyd.

Leonard Glasser's screenplay is problematic in its believability and shifts of tone, although it contains its share of situations and funny lines (Al's reason for not moving to Seattle is that the city is populated by serial killers who are "always awake"). Director Kevin Dowling ("The Sum of Us") is unable to provide the kind of style that might have put the material over. Too often, the film degenerates into broad slapstick, such as in a crazy shootout sequence at an isolated gas station and manned by a lunatic attendant (a cameo by Peter MacNicol).

The film works best in its quieter moments, with Aiello highly appealing and wisely underplaying his Everyman role. Jolie, an actress whom the camera truly adores, reveals a comic flair and the kind of blatant sexuality that makes it entirely credible that Aiello's character would drop everything just for the chance of being with her. Unfortunately, the supporting roles aren't as well-handled. Archer overdoes her character's vacuousness, and Biehn is way too broad as the deranged Boyd, finally resembling something out of a Warner Bros. cartoon. The normally reliable Alfred Molina is quite funny as Al's underemployed actor buddy, but even he is ultimately reduced to such silliness as parading around in a Rambo costume.

MOJAVE MOON

New Moon Prods.

Director Kevin Dowling

Producer Matt Salinger

Screenplay Leonard Glasser

Executive producers: Michael Sayles,

Kevin Dowling, Cindy Cowan

Editor Susan Crutcher

Director of photography James Glennon

Music Johnny Caruso

Color/stereo

Cast:

Al McCord Danny Aiello

Julie Anne Archer

Ellie Angelina Jolie

Boyd Michael Biehn

Sal Alfred Molina

Kaiser Jack Noseworthy

Running time -- 92 minutes

No MPAA rating

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