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‘If Looks Could Kill’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 15, 1991


William Dear
Richard Grieco;
Linda Hunt;
Roger Rees;
Robin Bartlett;
Roger Daltrey

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If looks could kill, TV heartthrob Richard Grieco would endanger his fans. A star of "21 Jump Street," this Fox tot is so pumped, primped, plucked and powdered he looks less like flesh and blood than a bowl of waxed fruit. With his eye shadow and perky pecs, he might be the test-tube progeny of Michael Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Grieco plays a teenage James Bond in "If Looks Could Kill," a farcical spy thriller designed to please younger viewers -- that it's authored by the producer-writer of Fox's "Beverly Hills 90210" is all you really need to know. But we might as well add that it's insipid, tiresome and full of gross kids.

Grieco plays Michael Corben, a high school ne'er-do-well who is mistaken for Michael Corben, a CIA operative, while traveling to Paris with his French club. His protests to the contrary only convince British intelligence that he is who he says he isn't. Provided with a red sports car, tuxedo and high-tech weaponry, Michael shrugs and goes along with the mission, a small-fry "Casino Royale."

Oscar-winner Linda Hunt is living dangerously for real in the role of Ilsa Grunt, the dedicated lieutenant of the aristocratic Augustus (Roger Rees), a megalomaniac who plans to dominate Europe. With the help of the obligatory pretty girl (Gabrielle Anwar), Michael manages to squelch the plot and learn such handy French phrases as "Boner ... jour," which is what one says when meeting a sexy babe.

There's the usual pandering to puerile interests, as when Michael uses his X-ray sunglasses to look through women's dresses. And while he ogles them with relish, the ladies' appurtenances hardly compare with the hero's own. He looks to be a D-cup when he takes it all off -- except for those Jockey shorts -- in one supposed-to-be-lewdly-funny scene.

Though it has a number of workable sight gags -- as when a thug with prosthetic claw tries his luck at hitchhiking -- the movie is desperately uneven as directed by William Dear of "Harry and the Hendersons." It's probably no dumber than most grown-up espionage adventures, but it is disturbing to see violence so taken for granted in a youth comedy. "If Looks Could Kill" has a body count worthy of Rambo. Now if only it will, in turn, simply die at the box office.

"If Looks Could Kill" is rated PG-13 for violence.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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