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‘The Temp’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 15, 1993

Peter (Timothy Hutton) has a report that has to be on his boss's desk by noon the next day.

No problem.

His files are a mess. His plants are dying, and his coffee is bad.

No problem.

His savior is a temporary secretary named Kris (Lara Flynn Boyle), who from day one seems capable of performing miracles, including the untimely removal of everyone standing between him and the company's top job.

Big problem.

Just when you thought it was safe to go to the copying machine, "The Temp," Tom Holland's feebleminded semi-comic thriller, discovers a shark in the secretarial pool. Efficient, hard-working, indefatigable (and, oh yeah, kinda cute), Kris does for shorthand what Rebecca De Mornay's psycho nanny did for diapers; she's the secretary from ... well, you know.

When Peter first gets a taste of Kris's executive assistance, he's bowled over. On more than one occasion, she saves his bacon. But after her arrival, strange things start to happen around the office. First, Peter's regular assistant has a nasty run-in with a paper shredder, then a rival hotshot (Oliver Platt) has a stinging accident, and then a VP (Dwight Schultz) gets hung up after the company's new all-natural cookies cause customers to spit up blood.

Some of the movie plays as if it were intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but other parts are played straight, making it appear that Holland and his screenwriter Kevin Falls couldn't make up their minds about what sort of movie they wanted to make.

The performers look a little baffled too. Hutton fluctuates between panic and lethargy, with the only consistency being his character's knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Boyle is insinuatingly sexy, but her appealing performance is all one note. And, in a thankless replay of her performance as the bitch in heels in "Network," Faye Dunaway may have added something to her bank account, but nothing to her reputation.

"The Temp" is rated R for sexual suggestiveness and language.

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