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‘Sibling Rivalry’ (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 26, 1990

"Sibling Rivalry" is puerile slop, a ghastly comic catastrophe about a neglected doctor's wife who accidentally sleeps with her brother-in-law. Appalling in every respect, this gauche Carl Reiner- directed farce brings out the most irksome qualities of a cast headed by the gawky girly-woman Kirstie Alley.

Alley plays the sexually repressed Marjorie, a put-upon homemaker who is married to Harry (Scott Bakula), the youngest sibling in an obnoxious family of physicians. Her abrasive sister (Jami Gertz), a poor excuse for a zany bohemian, suggests that Marjorie, a virgin bride, have an affair so she can at least contrast and compare.

As fate would have it, that same day she meets a walrus-faced man (Sam Elliott) in the grocery line, and before you can say "paper or plastic" is swept off for an afternoon o' passion. Coyly, Reiner's camera follows a trail of discarded lingerie, while off-screen Marjorie moans and shrieks, getting into the total grooviness of lovemaking: "Oooo. This is delightful. Oh, in-a-gadda-da-vida, oh God, oh God, rock-and-roll." Five orgasms later, Mr. Walrus Face dies from amatory excess, thereby setting off a chain of painfully graceless comic moments.

Bill "Bad Timing" Pullman, who is to comedy what an earthquake is to a rising souffle, figures prominently as a doltish vertical-blinds salesman who helps Marjorie make the death look like a suicide. This entails stuffing stool softeners and cramp tamers -- which Marjorie keeps handy in her purse -- down the corpse's throat with a pencil. Then they find he is still wearing a condom, and argue over who will remove it. Tee hee.

As written by Martha Goldhirsch, "Sibling Rivalry" takes a squeamish, phony-'50s approach to the human condition. The best thing you can say for this chirping inanity is that the characters practice safe sex.

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