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‘Speechless’ (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 16, 1994

James Carville and Mary Matalin could tell you, a jackass can lie down with a pachyderm, but it isn’t always easy. And that’s basically the premise of “Speechless,” a bubbly romantic comedy starring Michael Keaton and Geena Davis as ideological opposites who attract on the campaign trail.

Written prior to the last presidential race, the movie is not modeled on the courtship of Carville and Matalin; in fact, Robert King penned this caper before the real-life bipartisan couple made headlines. Instead, the film seems to have been inspired by such screwball pen pals as Tracy and Hepburn in “Woman of the Year.”

Davis, who produced the movie with husband Renny Harlin, plays Julia, a speech writer for a Democratic candidate in the New Mexico senatorial contest. An insomniac, Julia unknowingly meets her Republican counterpart Kevin (Keaton) over the last box of Nytol in an all-night convenience store. The encounter leads to a moonlit ride through the land of enchantment and to a reluctant parting the next morning.

Kevin tells Julia only that he writes the popular sitcom “Chuck & Eddie.” He does—most of the time. Alas, Kevin steals one of Julia’s campaign strategies, and romance gives way to a witty war of words.

Snappy patter along with the likable star couple’s sure delivery are the movie’s chief assets. The plot is basic boy-meets-girl, complicated by his former wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and the sudden appearance of her former fiance, war correspondent Baghdad Bob (crafty Christopher Reeve). An irreverent sendup of Gunga Dan Rather, no doubt, Bob wears a shrapnel-shredded khaki vest while covering the uneventful New Mexico campaign.

When at its best, the film skewers the fatuous press, the dishonest pols and the back-stabbing staff behind the process. What’s missing is that floating-on-air feeling that comes when the lovers finally get together—and this is not to say that they do. Director Ron Underwood demonstrated a knack for comedy in “City Slickers,” but when it comes to love scenes ... Keaton and Davis might as well be stampeding cows.

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