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‘Skin Deep’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
March 03, 1989

Atrocious as it is, "Skin Deep," the new comedy from Blake Edwards, can lay claim to a breakthrough: It is the first film to make prominent comic use -- or, for that matter, any use at all -- of glow-in-the-dark condoms. Red and blue and, at one point, tricolor glow-in-the-dark condoms. The star, John Ritter, wears one, in a darkened bedroom -- and not on his nose. Another man, a rock star whose girlfriend Ritter is sleeping with, barges in wearing one of his own. They chase each other around in the dark with only their, um, equipment showing.

Certainly this is a dubious distinction, but just as certainly it is the only one the movie earns. The film, which Edwards wrote as well as directed, is about a blocked writer named Zack (Ritter) who can't stop drinking and womanizing and upsetting his chances for a stable domestic life. At the beginning of the film, his wife Alex (Alyson Reed) walks in as his mistress is about to put a bullet through his temple for seducing her hairdresser. This lands him out on the street, where he continues to behave in the childish, self-destructive manner to which he is accustomed.

Zack's reformation is the subject of "Skin Deep," and by the end of the movie he has stopped drinking, given up women and written a bestseller -- none of which comes as much of a surprise. Before this conclusion is reached, there are many drunken nights, many pickups (one night is spent with a body builder), lots of very broad comedy and very few laughs. Edwards gives all this his characteristic brand of sophisticated vulgarity. "Skin Deep" is intended as a comedy for knowing adults; its tone is that of a man who is pedantic about Ultrasuede. Watching it, you feel as if you're being hammered to death with champagne corks.

"Skin Deep" is rated R and contains flagrant, excessive and gratuitous profanity, nudity and adult themes.

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