‘Forget Paris’ (PG-13)By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 19, 1995
"Forget Paris," Billy Crystal's second directorial indulgence, is another chirrupy installment in the comedian's ongoing ode to his wisecracking charms.
While on a trip to France, Crystal—as a basketball referee to whom controversial decisions and one-liners come easily—flips for airline executive Debra Winger. Torn between spending quality time in a grown-up relationship or blowing the whistle at Shaq, Spud and Sir Charles (whose real presence provides the only fun in the movie), he tries to pack charming, romantic and quippy into one endearing Billy Crystal package.
If movies were basketball games, he'd be penalized for reaching. In a labored, story-within-a-story format, Crystal's sportswriter-friend Joe Mantegna sits down to dinner with fiancee Cynthia Stevenson. As they wait for their friends (including Richard Masur, Julie Kavner and Cathy Moriarty) to join them, Mantegna begins relating the Crystal-Winger romance. Through the magic of the movies, we go back to where it all began.
Honoring his dead father's wishes to be buried in France, Crystal flies the coffin to Paris only to discover at the airport that it has been misplaced. While he waits for his Dad's cadaver to turn up, he meets Winger, whose job it is to deal with such customer problems. The coffin shows up, Crystal asks her out, and a romantic montage in Paris is born.
Crystal works in his patented post-Borscht Belt sentimental strain whenever possible—the way, for instance, his hands are lost in the long sleeves of a borrowed dinner jacket. "It's in there somewhere," he shrugs when he shakes Winger's hand. Then there's the tragicomic statements he utters between quips. "Put him on his stomach," Crystal retorts when asked to identify his father's body, "because I'm used to seeing him walk away." This movie has such a naked desire to evoke the human condition, you want to throw a blanket over it.
Giddy love, this savvy comedy would have us know, is just the beginning. The Crystal-Winger union in America—in which Winger waits at home while Crystal goes on the road—has its ups and downs. The ups include a wacky escapade in which Winger walks into a vet's office with a pigeon stuck to her face. Explaining what connection this completely gratuitous scene has to the story would take a phone call to screenwriters Crystal, Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel.
The downs, well, that's most of the movie. Let's just say, it's the dullest romance since "Blue Lagoon II." But to diners Mantegna, Masur and Kavner (all pals of Crystal), the saga is so compelling, they fight for the right to tell Stevenson the story.
"Oh come on, let me tell this part!" honks Kavner like Marge Simpson out on the town.
"May I finish this?" demands Masur.
The magic is obviously working on Stevenson, who begins to moan and sob sympathetically like someone clean out of medication. It becomes very clear that these people need two things: to place their orders and to get a life.
FORGET PARIS (PG-13) — Contains minor profanity, sexual situations and, in one particularly scary moment, Crystal's shirtless body.
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