Some people never outgrow their liking for Saturday morning cartoons. As long as Burt Reynolds keeps making movies they don't have anything to worry about.

Reynolds' movies are fantasies for adults, and "Hooper," his latest effort, won't disappoint his fans. Reynolds plays the same roguish, devil-may-care-but-basically-decent guy he always plays. This time he's a famous Hollywood stuntman approaching middle age. This gives him an excuse to run around defying death while at the same time demonstrating his innate tenderness.

The stunts are fun to watch and if it stopped there this would be a good action movie. But there's an underlying macho message that glorifies fistfights, car chases and drunkenness - that says they're just the fun-loving antics of big overgrown boys. This concept is not only dangerous, it's pathetic, since these boys are closer to 40 and 50 than they are to 20.

In keeping with true cartoon tradition, there's a maximum of violence with a minimum of consequences. People get thrown out of plate glass windows and emerge with nary a scratch. If they get punched in the mouth a tooth may fall out, but there's no blood, just a nice neat gap. When they race their cars through a crowded intersection, the pedestrains smile at their hi-jinks instead of calling the cops to come and arrest them for reckless driving.

As for the level of humor, it has all the wit and sophistication found in the average high school, revolving around sex, getting drunk, excreting and belching.

Of course, since this is a cartoon for adults, there are lots of adoring females on the sidelines - notably Sally Field as Reynolds' long-suffering girlfriend.When she isn't waiting at home for him with short shorts and a cold beer, she's wringing her hands and saying things like "But Sonny! Think of the risk!" This is supposed to build up suspense for the big finale - whether Reynolds and his young sidekick, played by Jan Michael Vincent, will survive an Evel Knievel jump over a 450-foot gorge in their rocket-car. Common sense tells them not to attempt the stunt, but they do it anyway. All the pretty girls on the set are impressed. Sally Field almost has a nervous breakdown. It's all anyone can talk about.

This is annoying. Why should anybody care if two big jerks choose to risk their lives doing something they know may kill them? They're grown-up human beings. If they want to kill themselves trying to prove their masculinity, that's their problem. There's certainly no reason for anyone to pay good money to watch them do it. As a matter of fact, there's no reason for anyone to pay money to watch any of this. You can catch the same sort of performances for free anytime at your nearest bar, fraternity house or locker room.


HOOPER opens this Friday at the AMC Academy 6, Beacon Mall 4, Jenifer Cinema 1, Landover 6, Marlow, Piks, Roth's Tyssons Corner 5, Springfield Cinema and Wheaton Plaza 3.