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By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 12, 1992


Frank Oz
Steve Martin;
Goldie Hawn;
Dana Delany;
Julie Harris;
Donald Moffat;
Peter MacNicol
Parental guidance suggested

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"Housesitter" features so many lingering shots of Goldie Hawn's backside, you begin to feel like she's an RV and you're stuck behind her on a winding mountain road. Whether this represents director Frank Oz's subliminal wish to see the project's end is open to conjecture. In any case, Hawn comes off as the butt of the joke.

Her jeans clinging like cellophane to a rump roast, Hawn wiggle-giggles her way through this romantic comedy in her customarily daffy fashion. After refreshingly mature turns in "Deceived" and "Crisscross," the well-preserved 46-year-old returns in a role better suited to an ingenue -- a wacky waitress who liberates Steve Martin's emotionally underdeveloped architect from a life of terminal mediocrity.

Martin, who has fathered a bride, parented a passel and in most other ways grown up on screen, is also beyond his naif-boy years, though he isn't asked to make quite such a fool of himself as Hawn, so wide-eyed you'd think she was witnessing a constant series of homicides. Nope, she's just wowed by Mr. Bland's dream house, a large, airy contraption he designed and built as a betrothal gift for his childhood sweetheart (Dana Delany). When she turns down the house and his proposal, Martin seeks consolation in the arms of Hawn.

Claiming to be his wife, Hawn moves into the vacant New England house, which she furnishes with the help of her new in-laws (Julie Harris and Donald Moffat). A pathological liar with a scanty grasp on reality, Hawn charms his family, his friends and the entire town. When Martin discovers the deception, he agrees to go along if she will help him win back Delany. All the while we are supposed to be saying to ourselves, "What is he, blind? Can't he see that they were made for each other?" But the chemistry between the leads belies that conceit. There were hotter moments between Opie Taylor and Aunt Bee.

The addlepated screenplay from a story by debuting playwright Mark Stein and producer Brian Grazer definitely calls for a younger duo such as Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels or Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Clearly Oz sees "Housesitter" as a screwball caprice, but the Muppeteer-turned-director delivers a stale couple's counseling movie. The message -- if your partner is a deluded liar, then you might as well be too -- must have been thought up by Pinocchio.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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