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‘Opportunity Knocks’ (PG-13)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 30, 1990

In "Opportunity Knocks," Dana Carvey pulls out all the stops to keep us well entertained. He's like the over-eager host at a party, frantically rushing around to make sure everyone's drinks are fresh and all the hors d'oeuvre trays are filled. Whatever's necessary, he'll do it -- shtick, dialects, impressions, funny dances, any and everything. And if you're too tired to smile, no problem! He'll pinch up the corners of your mouth for you.

The main problem with "Opportunity Knocks," though, is that everything the "Saturday Night Live" cast member does falls into an inoffensive middle-range. As a comic, he's perfectly agreeable and, at times, even mildly amusing. But he's been pressed into leading-man service much too soon -- as a star he's undercooked. Playing a con man who offends a local crime boss (James Tolkan) and, as a way of hiding out, assumes the identity of a young financial wizard, he's meant to redeem the film's woefully flimsy central premise. But Carvey's gifts are too skinny to balance the scales of awfulness.

Set in Chicago, where Eddie and his pal Lou (Todd Graff) work nickel-and-dime cons on the street, the film tells the story of a crook who's reformed by the love of a young doctor (Julia Campbell), who, along with her mother and father (Doris Belack and Robert Loggia), believes he is her brother's best friend and takes him under her wing. Essentially, though, the film is a collection of bits, all designed to feature Carvey's various comic skills. But Carvey's talents are palatable only in small helpings. Even his best routines don't seem marked definitively with his stamp.

The feeling you get from the picture -- which Donald Petrie directs with an eye for speed and not much else -- is that it was slapped together to capitalize on the high visibility of Carvey's George Bush impression and his Church Lady routine. In fact, the filmmakers have bulldozed a Bush routine into the plot. The low point comes when Carvey jumps onstage in a nightclub and attempts a Jagger-esque rendition of "Born to Be Wild." (Its best gag is too good to give away.)

In this case, the movie's title has a double meaning. Its real subject is how to cash in on a hot attraction. I would like to pronounce Carvey a star. But, no, not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent. At this juncture.

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