ENEMIES, A LOVE STORY
R, 1989, 121 minutes, closed-captioned, Media Home Entertainment, $89.98.
"Enemies, a Love Story," Paul Mazursky's soulful adaptation of the Isaac Bashevis Singer novel, has a spirit that's nearly impossible to describe -- a kind of robust, almost lusty fatalism. The movie, which is set in New York in 1949, is a dark comedy about ghosts, specifically Jewish refugees who have escaped the camps and come to a booming postwar America but are still half-enslaved by tragedy. In "Enemies," Mazursky functions as both comedian and philosopher, and his hero is Herman (Ron Silver), a Polish refugee who during the war was hidden away from the Nazis in a hayloft. His protector was his servant, Yadwiga (Margaret Sophie Stein), who took care of him and eventually came with him to America to become his wife. As the movie progresses, Herman's web of falsehoods and half-truths becomes hopelessly, hilariously intricate. The story he presents to his naive wife is that he is a traveling bookseller, off constantly on trips to the wilds of Pittsburgh and Baltimore. In truth, this timid man works as a ghostwriter for a swindling rabbi (Alan King) and uses the invented book-selling venture as a cover for his regular visits to the Bronx to see his mistress, Masha (Lena Olin). As complex as Herman's life is with only two women to deal with, it becomes even more so with the reappearance of his first wife, Tamara (Anjelica Huston), who he had believed was murdered in the camps. The story Mazursky tells is richly eccentric, jubilant and skeptical all at once. He has made, in other words, a deeply, fully human work. -- Hal Hinson
R, 1989, 113 minutes, closed-captioned, Columbia Pictures Home Video, $89.95.
"Family Business" is an equal opportunity Mafia movie about a Scottish-Sicilian-Cherokee-Jewish crime dynasty, a muddled Oedipal dramedy that pits grandfather (Sean Connery) and grandson (Matthew Broderick) against the middleman (Dustin Hoffman, as dear old dad). It's not the godfather in a tartan, but a misbegotten three-star vehicle with the three gents unconvincing as successive generations of the eclectic McMullen clan. Hoffman, in particular, looks like a squeak from a different bagpipe as Vito, the itchy son of a half-Scottish, half-Cherokee gangster and his Sicilian wife. "If he'd had a proper name instead of Vito, he'd have been five inches taller," says Grandpa by way of explaining the physical dissimilarity to his half-Jewish grandson, a bland lad struggling to prove himself. Vito, now the owner of a meat factory, gave up an exciting criminal career and his father's goodwill for the sake of his family. But when his rebellious son drops out of graduate school to become an armed robber like his colorful grandfather, Vito finds he must break the law to protect them both. Directed by Sidney Lumet from a screenplay by Vincent Patrick, the movie languishes in its own paterfamilial pap. It's a dithering, slapdash daddysomething. -- Rita Kempley
R, 1989, 137 minutes, closed-captioned, Orion Home Video, $89.98.
Milos Forman's spin on "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" is sumptuous suds, a broadly played trivialization of the 18th-century novel of boudoir intrigue. With its callow cast and playful tone, there is nothing dangerous about Forman's variation on the novel's schemes. It becomes a pouty costume drama in which the erotic conquests of bored libertines are transformed into children's kissing games. Colin Firth and Annette Bening play the story's sexual strategists, the smarmy Vicomte de Valmont and the devious Marquise de Merteuil, whose machinations sully the virtuous Madame de Tourvel (Meg Tilly) and the virginal Cecile de Volanges (Fairuza Balk). This cast, a generation younger than that of Stephen Frears's "Dangerous Liaisons," more closely mirrors the ages of the novel's young adults and teenagers. But alas, they seem less bedroom Machiavellis than members of a 1700s Breakfast Club, not tragically flawed, hopelessly jaded and ultimately doomed, but merely wet behind the leers. The screenplay by Jean-Claude Carriere focuses on 15-year-old Cecile's upcoming marriage to the marquise's lover, Gercourt (Jeffrey Jones). A woman spurned, the marquise asks her confidant Valmont to seduce the convent-educated virgin, promising her body in return for the favor. Their plans are complicated when Chevalier Danceny (Henry Thomas), a lovesick harpist, begins to woo the wide-eyed, Miss Piggish Cecile with childish poetry and clumsy zeal. All in all, it has the feel of an elaborate TV miniseries. -- Rita Kempley
HOMER AND EDDIE
R, 1989, 100 minutes, closed-captioned, HBO Video, $89.99.
In life, we get to choose whom we spend time with. In the movies, though, the company of undesirables is sometimes forced upon us. So it is with Andrei Konchalovsky's "Homer and Eddie," which requires us to endure an inordinate amount of time in the company of James Belushi and Whoopi Goldberg. Yes, Goldberg and Belushi. Together. On the same screen. As Groucho once said, "I have to stay here, but there's no reason why you shouldn't slip out into the lobby until this whole thing blows over." Probably more unpleasant couplings are imaginable, but none springs immediately to mind. The picture is about a couple of down-and-outers -- Edwina (Goldberg), an escaped mental patient with a brain tumor, and a brain-damaged simpleton named Homer (Belushi) -- who hit the road in search of, oh, I don't know, the heart of American darkness. Or themselves. Or each other. Or maybe just burgers and fries. At its heart, "Homer and Eddie" is like a Water Buffalo Lodge production of "Of Mice and Men" with Fred Flintstone as Lenny. Both actors here get to do a great deal of what they are the least talented at -- acting. Belushi plays Homer with a prancing, girlish bounce in his step, as if he were trying to imitate those ballet-dancing hippos in Disney's "Fantasia." Goldberg's Eddie, on the other hand, is nobody's idea of a nice, loving person. She is, as they say, a tad antisocial. She has fits, does Eddie, during which she rants about pestilence and God and how life is all unfair and stuff. Frightening, and proof positive that yes, life is indeed unfair. -- Hal Hinson