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Destiny Turns on the Radio Movie Review

james baran travis tell

Quentin Tarantino as Johnny Destiny. Right. And the Emperor was really wearing clothes. But Mr. T is an Oscar winner. He's the 1990s’ Big Thing. Why not be a movie star and an influential screenwriter and a hot director, too? Tarantino was promoted more in the television spots than the so-called stars, Dylan McDermott, Nancy Travis, James LeGros, and James Belushi, as if his Midas touch could rub off on first-time screenwriters Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone and on fledgling director Jack Baran. It can't, of course. The script is the stuff of formulaic hacks, and Baran's idea of great direction is to tell McDermott he's in an action flick, THEN tell Travis she's in a romantic comedy, THEN tell LeGros his character is brain dead, and THEN tell Belushi and his henchmen that their characters require constant reassurances about their virility; they even scratch their crotches in synch. All of this was developed at The Sundance Institute, so some critics have been charitable about this maiden effort. But it's a mess. Travis is a nightclub singer whose voice is dubbed by a singer who's ever so slightly off-key, so the Hoagy Carmichael classic “Baltimore Oriole” is ruined, ditto “That Old Black Magic.” (You can hear Louis Prima and Keely Smith sing it right on the soundtrack.) A restrained Bobcat Goldthwaite plays an undercover cop who spends most of the movie tied to a vibrating bed with an apple taped in his mouth. A real knee slapper, no? Tarantino has set the world on fire as a screenwriter and director, but he is not of strong enough presence to dazzle anyone as Johnny Destiny. And for critics to be kind to Destiny Turns on the Radio sets Baran, Ramsay, and Stone up for their second effort to be (surprise) received far worse than their dreadful debut, since it lacks the je ne sais quoi of Destiny. It's a curiosity piece all right, but it's lucky that night prowling movie cats usually have eight or nine lives to spare. woof!

1995 (R) 101m/C Dylan McDermott, Nancy Travis, James LeGros, Quentin Tarantino, Allen (Goorwitz) Garfield, James Belushi, Tracey Walter, Bob(cat) Goldthwait; D: Jack Baran; W: Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone; C: James L. Carter; M: Steven Soles. VHS, Closed Caption

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