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‘Regarding Henry’ (PG-13)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 12, 1991

Yuppies have gone too far, Hollywood's been telling us lately. Obsessed with the American dream, they've left their values and their nuclear families in the dust. In "Regarding Henry," mega-lawyer Harrison Ford is guilty of both crimes. Boy, is he going to get it.

Not only will he fall, he'll undergo the cruelest rehabilitation a lawyer could possibly imagine. He's going to become a human. You gotta love this premise. As the movie starts, he's won yet another huge case. He has all the success and power an upper-incomer could want: partnership, plush office, slave-secretary, Manhattan spread, as well as a beautiful wife (Annette Bening) and daughter (Mikki Allen).

The trouble is, he's out of human touch with everything. That case he won was for a hospital against a defenseless diabetic. He's out of love with Bening, and he can't communicate with his daughter. When the 12-year-old needs comforting, he sits on the edge of her bed and says, "Finished a real big case today, Honey, and Daddy won. OK?"

Let others spoil for you what happens to Ford, but his life changes radically upon entering a grocery store. After this incident, he's going to have to relearn everything.

Watching "Henry" is very gratifying on a nonintellectual level. Director Mike Nichols moves through this story through the appropriate emotions with linear simplicity. Ford, who goes from control freak to powerless (but triumphant) child, makes the rather one-dimensional redemption work. He has this half-smirk that he's used consistently, from "Star Wars" to "Presumed Innocent," which works every time. It's a sort of grimace, wince and smile all in one; he uses it here with comi-tragic success.

Bening, fast becoming a big star by way of "Valmont," "The Grifters," "Guilty by Suspicion" and "Postcards From the Edge," keeps up her momentum. Faced with daunting obstacles, she takes to the task with believability and warmth. As the daughter suffering from parental lovelessness, firsttime performer Allen is disarmingly natural. Bill Nunn, who plays a significant helpmate in Ford's spiritual recovery, makes his moments count with an engaging mixture of compassion and randy gusto.

But apart from the story's initial twist, there's little in "Henry" that you can't see coming. In addition to defending the wrong clients and ignoring his family, Old Ford likes eggs, doesn't say hello to the doorman, hates the new dining table and thinks his daughter should go to a snooty private school. Guess where New Ford stands on these issues.

Screenwriter Jeffrey Abrams obviously did his homework, gleaning those movies that cried their way to the bank, including "Big," "Rain Man," "Ghost" and "Awakenings." Nevertheless, any character movie in the sense-bruising summer season is always welcome. Given what it sets out to do -- make the Henrys of the world appreciate their families for the neat little nuclear units they are -- "Henry" easily wins its case.

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