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‘The Adventures of Ford Fairlane’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 11, 1990

"The Adventures of Ford Fairlane" is a resounding belch from the belly of the new Neanderthal. It's a nasty little boy's comedy, an unzipped vehicle designed especially for that embarrassment to baboons, Andrew Dice Clay. But if you suffer fools gladly, it's also funny.

Ford Fairlane, conveniently, is a lot like Clay's irksome Diceman, a swaggering, bullying Bunkerite with his brain in his Fruit o' the Looms. But thanks to the screenwriters -- who include Daniel Waters of "Heathers" -- the blowhard is occasionally hoist with his own petard. A wiseacre of a private eye, Ford is Fletch with more attitude, a rock-and-roll detective who specializes in making bimbos and solving music industry crimes.

The trouble is, every woman is a bimbo in Ford's eyes, and the thrust of his comedy is purely pelvic. He's not quite profane enough to make 2 Live Crew blush, but he nevertheless relies primarily on material drawn from bathroom walls. It's impossible to tell whether Clay is lampooning the locker room lout or simply exploiting the current vogue in hate comedy.

This higgledy-piggledy mystery links the deaths of a heavy metal star (Vincent Neil) and a shock-jock (Gilbert Gottfried) to a daffy groupie (Maddie Corman) and a record label owner (Wayne Newton). Ford has, in common with Dick Tracy, an orphaned sidekick known as the Kid (Brandon Call) and a red-haired love interest called Jazz (Lauren Holly), a martial artist who pays the bills and soothes Ford's clients. Priscilla Presley costars as a genre dame, a sleek socialite who seeks Ford's help in finding the groupie.

"Ford Fairlane" is the comedy of arrested adolescence, all pottyisms and sexual big talk involving the degradation of women. These are snickering 9-year-olds we're talking about. Even Ford's relationship with his chief rival -- "Married ... With Children's" Ed O'Neill as Lt. Amos -- is straight off the playground. "You're a piece of Spam. That's what I call you," says Amos. "I call you Spam," says Ford. "That's what I think of you."

There's something both frightening and amusing about this idiot persona. He's Rodney Dangerfield turned inside out, a borscht-abuse comic. Under the direction of "Die Harder's" Renny Harlin, the movie has a crackling pace and a glossy look. It's all the more pernicious for that, this slick glorification of hate and loathing that portrays women as sexually promiscuous and men as infantile, violent and feeble-minded. Here's one Ford that doesn't have a better idea.

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