Not too long ago, in her execrable movie "The Money Pit," Shelley Long spent most of her time with her house caving in on her head. Watching her new movie, "Hello Again," all I could think of was, "Where is that house when you need it?"
In her early days on "Cheers," Shelley Long was like a cactus with brains; she was all prickly spikes and soliloquies. Now she has become the actress most likely to draw fire from passing motorists. In "Hello Again," she plays Lucy, a housewife married to a social-climbing plastic surgeon named Jason (Corbin Bernsen). You only need to watch Lucy walk a length of carpet to know everything important about her -- carpet being one of the many things in life that she has trouble with. Lucy is, as they say, accident-prone, which is another way of saying that all things edible spring to her blouse with alarming frequency. Either that or she chokes on them and dies, which is what happens when she nibbles on a South Korean chicken ball at her sister's.
The movie, which was directed by Frank Perry and written by Susan Isaacs -- the team that worked together on "Compromising Positions" -- is like a sorry updating of "My Favorite Wife." One year after her death, Lucy is brought back from the dead by her sister (Judith Ivey), an occultist who put on her gypsy regalia to attend a Grateful Dead concert in '67 and hasn't taken it off since. Naturally, many things have changed, and the movie follows Lucy's progress as she adjusts to her new circumstances, including her husband's marriage to her best friend (Sela Ward), her fledgling love affair with the emergency-room doctor (Gabriel Byrne) who tried to save her life, and, once the story gets out, her new-found celebrity.
All of this is presented with a broad-stroked, sitcom raucousness that's pretty tough to stomach. The movie is a Disney production, and it has that special brand of tony brazenness -- the new Disney touch -- that a lot of its recent films have had. (If things keep up like this, Tinkerbell will have to exchange her wand for a sledgehammer.) There are some smart lines, but the scenes have no shape, and more often than not they're resolved by having Lucy knock something over. Somebody once said -- I think it was Plato -- that comedy isn't pretty, and "Hello Again" is absolute proof of that.
Hello Again, at area theaters, is rated PG.