THE BIG FIX - Academy 6, Arlington, Landover Mall 4, Roth's Tysons Corner 4, West End Circle and White Flint 1.
A college alumnus, encumbered now with a family and the necessity of earning a prosiac living, yearns back to the old days of campus glory. That's when he was out there fighting just for honor, buoyed up by the team spirit and the pride of the older generation back at home.
That is the plot of "The Big Fix" only it's not about college football. Richard Dreyfuss plays a University of California at Berkeley graduate, class of '68, and his days of glory were not spent on the field, but in the streets. The proud relative back home is not Dad, who played quarterback in his day, but Aunt Sonya, who had, in her youth, "dated every terrorist in Soviet Russia," and is now the verbal terror of the Israel Levin Senior Citizens' Center.
Dreyfuss plays a detective - the film qualifies as a thriller because it has a mysterious murder and a car chase, but its true nature and value are in the looking-back story - who does routine divorce and industrial spying cases. He has family responsibilities, all right, but these, too, are updated: His two small children tag along on his assingments because his ex-wife is busy "taking responsibility for myself" at her lover's sensitivity-training center.
It makes a very endearing movie - Dreyfuss, easily crying and laughing, pleased at having children take advantage of him, creates a very endearing character. But, with its film clip sequences of protest demonstrations of the '60s, it creates this charm with an extremely disturbing attitude.
This is not quite the conventional wisdom: Just wait until they have some responsibilities - they'll settle down like everyone else. The aging of radical-activisits, as shown here, means that they have been sweetly humanized.
A character who is credited with inventing the great '60s slogans, such as "Never trust anyone over 30," makes a point when, sitting next to his swimming pool, he compares the achievement to writing commercial slogans and concludes that anyone who would refuse to gather in that easy money would be "like a spoilsport at an orgy." It suggests not exactly a sellout, but the realization that the society does offer opportunities, such as they are.
But by covering the '60s with nostalgia, while also being cynical about the political system of the '70s, the film attempts to extoll acitivism but succeeds only in trivializing political involvement of any kind.
The anti-war, civil rights, women's liberation and other such movements are presented as having been lovable activities of youth that are dated now, their only-legacy having been to introduce the techniques of terrorism to the powerful. (That last is a strange and dubious proposition that is a serious plot defect.) The elections of the present are shown - and there is some very good satire of candidates and reportersd waffling all over television screens - as forces. Never mind if you agree about ideological content or lack of it among dissidents or voters. The point here is that everything political is nothing more than style, and so it's only natural that different generations get attached to their own styles, even when they have passes out of date.