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‘French Kiss’ (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 05, 1995

Meg Ryan, adorable as an all-American Francophobe, overcomes her fear of flying and learns to appreciate a foreign tongue in the delightful Euro-romp "French Kiss." The caper isn't as passionate as the title suggests—in fact, it's facile—but Ryan and Kevin Kline, as her attractive opposite, are irresistible together.

Ryan plays Kate, a wholesome teacher with an intolerance for cheeses, secondhand smoke and the French. Nevertheless, she plans to join her fiance, Charlie (Timothy Hutton), at a medical conference in Paris. But at the last minute she can't face the flight and Charlie reluctantly leaves without her.

In a matter of days he calls to say that he's met a "goddess" and is off to Cannes to meet her parents and plan the wedding. This time nothing can keep Kate on the ground—not even her disheveled seatmate, Luc (Kline), an outspoken Frenchman who gets her drunk on stolen vodka and accuses her of frigidity: "I can tell by ze way you are dressed zat you are afraid of life," he psychoanalyzes. "You cower like ze leetle rabbit under ze covers."

After they land in Paris, Luc slips a stolen diamond necklace into Kate's backpack, knowing that customs will search him but not this clean-cut innocent. Before he can catch up with her,though, Kate's off to find Charlie, whom she observes locked in the arms of the beau-dacious Juliette (Susan Anbeh). When Kate faints, a con man steals her things. Luc offers to help her get them back—and Charlie, too—a proposition that takes them south to the romantic Cote d'Azur.

Stripped of her money, passport and clothes, Kate discovers she loves cheese, the French countryside, the Gallic personality—and, though she's still fixated on getting Charlie back, Luc is beginning to grow on her. Luc meanwhile begins to notice that Kate's eyes sparkle brighter than Cartier's diamonds. That, of course, is the cue for Charlie's renewed interest in Kate.

Kline's hilariously hammy l'accent puts Inspector Clouseau's to shame; his performance is the zaniest since "A Fish Called Wanda." Ryan's Kate is even pickier than the heroine in "When Harry Met Sally . . . " and melts just as endearingly. She and Kline spar convincingly; Doris Day and Rock Hudson had sexier scenes, but none this romantic.

"French Kiss" benefits from its wonderfully sappy Franco-American score, which features Louis Armstrong's version of "La Vie en Rose," "I Love Paris" performed by Toots Thielemans, and Kline's tuneful "La Mer." Or maybe it's Lawrence Kasdan's breezy approach to Adams Brooks's bonbon of a script. Then again, maybe it's the cheese.

French Kiss is rated PG-13 for off-color language.

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