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‘Three Men and a Little Lady’ (PG)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 21, 1990

Nothing could be cuter than "Three Men and a Little Lady," a child-rearing comedy that just crawls up in your lap and purrs. Stickier than a flock of marshmallow chicks, this encore for Tom Selleck and company makes the precious 1987 original seem almost prickly in comparison.

Selleck reprises the role of Peter, the dimplicious architect who shares his apartment with the puerile cartoonist Michael (Steve Guttenberg) and the egocentric actor Jack (Ted Danson). The once-swinging bachelors have sublimated their own needs in order to devote themselves to 5-year-old Mary (Robin Weisman), love child of Jack and Sylvia (Nancy Travis), the actress who abandoned baby Mary in the foyer.

Mary has graduated from projectile-spitting Gerber peas to inquiring about Peter's plumbing, but the three men remain essentially the same. Like broody penguins hatching eggs, they dote on Mary's every pout and whimper, while Sylvia, who now lives with them, pursues her blossoming career on Broadway. The cozy arrangement is threatened when Sylvia agrees to marry her British director, Edward (Christopher Cazenove), and move with Mary to England. When Edward proves a cad -- he is secretly planning to send Mary to a boarding school -- the men set off to stop the wedding.

Written by Charlie Peters of "Blame It on Rio," "Kiss Me Goodbye" and other piffle, the sequel ought to pacify fans of the original. A predictable mix of farce and sentiment, pleasantly paced by director Emile Ardolino, the story is not in the least demanding. It turns on the unrequited romance between Nancy and Peter, which is complicated when the foolish headmistress of Pileforth Academy (Fiona Shaw) becomes attracted to Peter. Unfortunately Shaw, a gifted British performer, actually acts, and it suddenly becomes all the more obvious that the other cast members -- especially Guttenberg -- are merely taking up space.

And still the overriding question remains: Why are three successful middle-aged men still living in the same apartment together after six years? Are they an item or is it just because they like to make sequels? Stay tuned for "Three Men and a Little Lady in a Training Bra."

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