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By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 29, 1988


Roger Donaldson
Tom Cruise;
Bryan Brown;
Elisabeth Shue;
Laurence Luckinbill
Under 17 restricted

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After all his noise about serious acting, Tom Cruise does "Cocktail," the definitive coffeetable movie. Think of it as "Top Gun" with drink umbrellas, "Flashdance" with juggling bartenders, "The Graduate" in night school. This coming-of-age romance-drama has got no swizzle.

In his first film since "The Color of Money," Cruise plays Brian Flanagan, another cocky youth, who becomes a celebrity bartender on Manhattan's Upper East Side. After learning to juggle bar staples, Brian and his mentor, Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown), develop a Flying Karamazov Brothers routine and become stars of the club scene.

Brian proves irresistible to women, leading tasteless old Doug to observe, "When you can see the color of their panties, you know you've got what it takes." Brian grins widely. Sometimes he leaps on the bar, and the high-powered clubgoers hush to hear him rap sing: "America, you're devoted to every flavor I've got. America if you'd like to get loaded, just try a shot." As you might well guess, he's an overnight sensation.

Due to the pressures of fame the men's friendship falls apart. Grinning sadly, Brian goes to the Caribbean to find himself, a plot twist that gives director Roger Donaldson a chance to practice up for a "Come back to Jamaica" commercial. Elisabeth Shue, as the love interest Jordan Mooney, arrives and joins the star in several sex scenes in exotic locations. They speak of having children and making them little grass skirts. Alas, Brian is looking for a rich woman who will bankroll him in a business and Jordan, rejected, leaves Jamaica. Still Brian is troubled and grins sadly into his fruit drink to prove it.

Will Brian forget about Jordan? Or will he go to New York and find out she's pregnant? Wouldn't it be ironic if she were secretly rich? These questions and more are dealt with in the intensely hackneyed plot by Heywood Gould, who bases it on his novel, which he based on his life. Donaldson, who directed such powerful movies as "Smash Palace" and "No Way Out," adds gloss and, uncharacteristically, nothing else to this smugly formulaic effort.

Cruise is walking in the footsteps of Troy Donahue and John Travolta here. He does what comes easy. He bumps and grinds and grins till his lips ache. It's a performance with all the integrity of wax fruit. And "Cocktail" is mud in your eye.

Cocktail, rated R, is playing at area theaters.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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