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'Russkies' (PG)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 13, 1987

Set in Key West on the Fourth of July, "Russkies" sloshes with patriotic palaver, offering apple pie and altruism even unto a Soviet sailor who has washed overboard and ashore during a storm. Mischa, played by "Top Gun" costar Whip Hubley, is captured by a trio of kid commandos who overcome their American imperialistic tendencies and befriend the good-natured Red.

Reared by military families and raised on anti-Commie comic books, Danny (Leaf Phoenix) and Jason (Stefan DeSalle) want to turn Mischa over to the authorities. But Adam (Peter Billingsley), taunted as the son of a conscientious objector, befriends Mischa and persuades the other boys to help him return to his sub offshore. Kiddie de'tente is achieved along with a dangerously high saccharine factor in a dangerously thin plot. The kids turn in energized, wide-eyed, "Our Gang" style performances, with Hubley as a handsome lump they drag from scene to scene.

Mischa, sounding like Sylvester Stallone had he been raised by Karl Marx, loves his country more than anything -- even Adam's sister the candy striper -- but he's wowed by blue jeans, firecrackers, burgers and fries. "America takes such a big bite out of life. Such color. Such freedom," he says, stars and stripes shining in his eyes. And yet he decides to go home to the family he adores -- but not before a chase scene ensues and the four friends set out for the sub in their small craft, pursued by their families and various military personnel. In the end, the boys give up their propagandistic comics and take up "War and Peace."

Rick ("Halloween II") Rosenthal directs this visually bland, well-meaning salute to the brotherhood of man. Mischa, more like a benign alien than a human being, seems a wildly romanticized representative of Soviet citizenry, as simplistic as the Rambo-style heroes he's meant to counterpoint. No wonder the kids turn to Tolstoy.

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