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Checking Out (1989)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jack Sommersby

"Prognosis: Terminal"
1 stars

Got a limited release and was seen by few, it disappeared from U.S. theatres after a couple of weeks and for good reason.

The black comedy Checking Out boasts a reasonably sophisticated visual design but not much else, rendering it quite the oddity that's interesting to look at but appalling both in its banality and criminality in wasting a talent as considerable as Jeff Daniels. He stars as Ray Macklin, an airline executive whose tranquil suburban life comes unglued when his best friend/co-worker suffers a fatal coronary during a neighborhood barbeque -- Ray's the same middle-age, and soon he's obsessing over his own mortality, turning himself into the ultra-hypochondriac, insistently complaining about chest pains and high blood pressure, and in turn making domestic life with his wife and kids a living hell. If what I've detailed thus far doesn't sound like the most promising of story ideas, it should give you an idea of just how monumentally misconceived the whole thing is. The screenwriter, Joe Eszterhas, who penned the flawed but riveting Betrayed from the year before but was also responsible for the dimwitted Flashdance and Jagged Edge, started out with an unworkable premise and did nothing but pile one unfunny bit after another onto the fire -- it's bombastically grating, and for all that's holy you can't fathom why the studio that green-lit the project couldn't see beforehand that they had a bona-fide clunker on their hands. We get poorly shaped scenes of Ray going on a buying frenzy in a medical-supplies store (heart-rate wristwatch, oxygen tanks, etc.) and spending endless hours in doctor waiting and examining rooms; one-dimensional bits with Ray and his wife (poor Melanie Mayron, valiantly trying to make something believable out of her constantly shrill character) culminating in endless obnoxious shouting matches; and, in the film's nadir, Ray going full-tilt-boogie berserk on a commercial flight and arrested upon landing, much to the chagrin of his fed-up boss. Checking Out is an egregrious cinematic endeavor bereft of observation and wit, not to mention semblances of narrative rhythm -- the pacing is absolutely glacial, with the running time feeling at least ninety minutes more than it is. Daniels, who impressed as the adulterous husband in Terms of Endearment and the movie-star/movie-character in The Purple Rose of Cairo, can do no wrong, but he can't make Steak tartare (or, in this case, mere Salisbury steak) out of week-old meatloaf. The British director David Leland has a gift for the occasional arresting shot, and the cinematographer Ian Wilson, another Brit, gives the proceedings a controlled colorful sheen, but neither they nor Daniels can resuscitate this dead-on-arrival calamity.

For a good medical-related comedy, try the Steve Guttenberg star vehicle "Bad Medicine."

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originally posted: 02/20/13 13:17:04
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  21-Apr-1989 (R)
  DVD: 01-Feb-2011

  N/A (15)


Directed by
  David Leland

Written by
  Joe Eszterhas

  Jeff Daniels
  Melanie Mayron
  Michael Tucker
  Kathleen York
  Ann Magnuson
  Allan Havey

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