Heaven only knows why Christopher Reeve turned in his cape for a cassock, unless it was to make up for raising Cain in "Deathtrap." He acts like he's on kryptonite in "Monsignor," a holey melodrama of the Harold Robbins school.
Reeve plays Father Flaherty, a young army chaplain during World War II who forgets himself in the trenches and guns down about 20 Germans. After this faux pas, his charm, Mafia connections and financial genius get him into the Vatican, where his mentor (Fernando Rey) lets him play the stock and black markets on behalf of the Church. Over the course of 30 years he breaks all ten Commandments.
A postulate nun (Genevieve Bujold) has cardinal knowledge of the upwardly mobile holy man. Bujold is a marvelous argument for celibacy, with a body as hollow as her eyes, but Flaherty can't kick the habit. He has pretended all along to be a soldier, but wants to tell the truth as they tarry in a rooftop garden, trying to make the best of such lines as "I'm living with a need to tell you something" (he grimaces).
"Let it out" (she cries).
Scene after scene, the audience laughs when it's supposed to feel. But who can feel for a bunch of immoral ninnies whose relationships end up in limbo? Flaherty's boyhood friend Varese (Jason Miller), for instance, forgets all about the woman he marries early in the film. He moves to Italy and stays 30 years; she never reappears.
There are fakey scenic backdrops, with the same view out of different windows; there are staggering time changes and improbable rewards for ungodly actions. There's no climax, no d,enouement.
What "Monsignor" needs -- besides a script, a sense of direction, a point, integrity, motivation, Bing Crosby, Charlton Heston, Barry Fitzgerald and some amen music -- is divine intervention. MONSIGNOR -- At the Jenifer Cinema, Laurel Twin Cinema, Loehmann's Plaza, NTI Marlow, NTI New Carrollton, NTI Tysons Center, Roth's Seven Locks, Showcase Fair City Mall, Springfield Mall and Wheaton Plaza.