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Overall Rating
2.54

Awesome: 7.69%
Worth A Look: 23.08%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad53.85%
Total Crap: 15.38%

1 review, 7 user ratings


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Amos & Andrew
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by Charles Tatum

"Black and White"
2 stars

E. Max Frye writes and directs a wannabe social comedy that does not score on enough levels.

Andrew Sterling (Samuel L. Jackson) is a black celebrity who happens to move to a small Massachusetts island populated mostly by whites. He is going to his new house there ahead of his wife, and tries to settle in. Local lawyer Phil Gillman (Michael Lerner) and wife Judy (Margaret Colin, looking exactly like Liza Minnelli in "Cabaret") see Sterling and assume he is robbing the house, not knowing it has a new owner.

The local incompetent police, headed by Chief Tolliver (Dabney Coleman) close in. Overly anxious officer Donaldson (Brad Dourif) shoots at the innocent Sterling, resulting in a standoff covered by a local freelance reporter, who interviews the Gillmans. Tolliver soon realizes his mistake, but it is too late to just change things back to how they were, especially when he is running for county commissioner in the fall. Tolliver the devises a convoluted plan: get petty criminal Amos (Nicolas Cage) to break into Sterling's home, take him hostage, then release him. Tolliver then promises to set Amos free. After Amos agrees and goes in, the real press arrives complete with satellite trucks and live on-location reporters.

Then the poo really hits the fan. Tolliver gives Amos' name out over the air, thereby canceling the deal they had. Amos makes the age old demand of a million dollars and a helicopter. The chief storms the home like a hero, but is knocked out by Andrew after Tolliver (completely out of character) calls him the N word. Amos and Andrew then flee to the Gillman's home, and begin finding out how Tolliver set them both up to begin with. With the police watching a now empty Sterling house, and Amos holding Andrew and the Gillmans hostage nearby, the news reports reach Reverend Brunch (a funny Giancarlo Esposito) and Ula (a wasted Loretta Devine) who promptly form a march on Wautauga Island in order to have "Brother Sterling" freed from the tyranny of the white man.

That is a whoooole lotta plot for a ninety five minute film, and this is one of director/writer Frye's problems. While watching "Amos & Andrew," I was reminded of a film from the 1970's that also dealt with a large cast in a social satire. However, Robert Altman juggled his characters in "Nashville" well, allowing the story to unfold without resorting to physical antics straight out of a Jerry Lewis movie. "Amos & Andrew" feels like a "mod social satire" from the 1960's, written for the Disney company and possibly starring Dean Jones. There is no bite here, and Frye cannot seem to keep steady aim on any one target. In Altman's film, the characters were flawed by interesting. Here, they are flawed and boring.

The few funny scenes seem to have worked as an afterthought. Bob Balaban has too few scenes as Roy, the freelance hostage negotiator. His one sided confessional phone calls (especially to a bound and gagged Tolliver) are a scream. Also, Lerner and Colin are good as the Gillmans. Colin is also very funny in one scene where she has been blindfolded by the couple's S&M gear, and keeps asking what is going on. A fistfight between Amos and Andrew is downright embarassing to watch.

Jackson plays his most understated role here, and almost gets lost in the character shuffle. He has one good scene, talking about his dad, but Sterling's persona is so ill defined (a writer, lecturer, playwright, Pulitzer Prize winner, on the cover of Forbes magazine) that Jackson cannot seem to get a grasp on him. Cage as a petty criminal...where have we seen this before? Amos is supposed to be charming in a stupid sort of way, but Cage just phones in his performance. Coleman plays his umpteenth incarnation of "9 to 5"'s Franklin Hart, and Dourif's Donaldson is so unbelievably stupid you will not believe entire plot points hinge on his idiotic behavior. Watch for completely misplayed scenes when Amos thinks the police are outside the Gillman home when in fact they are still outside the Sterling house. Even Cage cannot pull off such a lapse in character logic. By the time Sir Mix-A-Lot's horrid hip hop diddy "Suburbian Nightmare" (which recounts the entire movie you just saw from Andrew's point of view) assaults your ears over the end credits, the film is a lost cause.

"Amos & Andrew" does not live up to its potential. This should have been a wicked satire full of barbs at everyone from Jesse Jackson to liberal racists to small town politics. It hits its paper target, but with an atomic bomb instead of intelligent and thought out shots.

You can not be sure what the original intent was in the first place when all of its energy was used in trying to get a dig in on everybody.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=3300&reviewer=325
originally posted: 08/12/03 00:26:46
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User Comments

10/12/10 PAUL SHORTT CRASS AND SILLY 1 stars
1/24/10 Jeff Wilder Entertaining comedy. Starts off slow. But works quite well. 4 stars
3/02/08 Baboune it sucks 1 stars
3/30/05 Charlie One of Nic's best! 4 stars
8/08/03 Anastasia Beaverhausen This movie is PC...pretty crappy 2 stars
7/12/03 John Aster Habig good joke on upper class racism 5 stars
3/24/03 Jack Sommersby Neat little comedy. More of an idea than a film, but it works nevertheless. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Mar-1993 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-May-2001

UK
  N/A

Australia
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