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‘The Bodyguard’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 27, 1992

In "The Bodyguard," short-haired security agent Kevin Costner has to protect Whitney Houston from a mysterious marauder. But all the training and discipline in the world are no match for Lawrence Kasdan's script, an assassin of logic and believability.

Costner, one of the best agents in the trade, has retired from presidential security work to go into the private sector. For a bodyguard, that means working for show business types. He's snapped up to watch over Houston, a singer/actress who has been receiving murderous letters from an anonymous source.

At first, the movie's an enjoyable, MTV-deep collision of opposites. Costner's an organized, disciplined loner who keeps a ninja sword handy. She's peppy, scatterbrained and surrounded by publicity minions. His biggest fear is being caught flat-footed. She just wants to kick up her heels. It's only a matter of time before love arises between Mr. Earphone and Ms. High Note. By that time, "Bodyguard" has slumped to the ground.

Originally written in 1975 with Steve McQueen in mind, Kasdan's script may make updated references to Ronald Reagan, but it's boneheaded, no matter how old it is. For starters, you can figure out the nefarious manipulator almost an hour before Costner does. No wonder old buzzhead quit the Secret Service.

For another, after the movie makes a big show of Costner's obsessive, ascetic professionalism, the bodyguard jumps into bed with his client faster then you can say "security alert." Even more ridiculously, he wakes up in the morning and decides it's time to revert back to business as usual. "I want to keep it straight in my head what job I'm doing," he explains.

Pardon me, Mr. Studley: Given the happy, naked recording artist in your bed, isn't this realization just a leedle late?

The movie's at its best while Costner and Houston dance initial circles around each other. In one scene, Costner is obliged to follow Houston into a clothes store. When she asks him to hand her some garments over the dressing room door, he says in his bland monotone: "I'm here to keep you alive, not help you shop."

When Costner presents Houston with a cross-shaped brooch to pin on her evening clothes, she's touched. Finally, the shy Ice Man has come through.

"It's beautiful," she breathes.

"It's fitted with a radio transmitter," he replies.

As the romance segues into thriller mode, the movie becomes increasingly ridiculous, culminating in a finale at the Academy Awards ceremonies. With the killer still at large, Houston, who has been nominated for an acting award (yes), insists on attending.

Speaking of attendance, aren't famous people supposed to come to the Oscars? In "Bodyguard," the only celebrity you'll see is Robert Wuhl -- not exactly a household name. Couldn't they even get Sally Kirkland? Maybe this was the Pay-TV People's Choice Awards and Costner -- whose lack of alertness sometimes suggests Lt. Frank Drebin of "The Naked Gun" -- was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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