CADILLAC MAN

R, 1990, 97 minutes, closed-captioned, Orion Home Video, $94.98.

Just about the time you expect "Cadillac Man," with Robin Williams, to fly to pieces, a funny thing happens. It begins to work. The movie, directed by Roger Donaldson ("Cocktail") from a Ken Friedman script, is coarse and haphazardly engineered and never more than intermittently funny. But Williams is a resourceful, invigorating performer. Even if his material is third-rate (as it is here), he never stops pitching it, hustling, working the angles, trying to make a sale. And he manages not so much to redeem the movie as to rescue it from complete disaster. It takes a while for the performance to gather momentum; it's not until Tim Robbins storms in as a deranged jealous husband that the picture slips into a sustained groove. Joey (Williams) is a high-pressure salesman for a dealer in Queens. The movie's central premise is that his livelihood is on the line. On the day before the dealership's big sale, he's told that if he wants to hold on to his job he has to sell 12 units. And for a time, Donaldson takes this wrinkle seriously, focusing on Joey's desperation. But once Robbins's maniacal Larry crashes through the front door of the showroom on his motorcycle and takes everyone hostage, the movie becomes an improv situation, with Williams and Robbins running through the variations on their captive/captor relationship. Physically, the two stars match up nicely, and Robbins's syrupy-slow thought processes are an excellent counterpoint to Williams's lightning-bolt flourishes. Still, this is far from a dream project for either actor. -- Hal Hinson

THE WALL: LIVE IN BERLIN

1990, 120 minutes, PolyGram Music Video, $19.95.

How convenient for Roger Waters was the reunification of Germany? Well, Waters was able to stage "The Wall" on the site of the wall in Berlin in front of 350,000 fans using a coterie of superstars, a symphony orchestra and choir and a military band from the Soviet Union, a cast of hundreds bringing to visceral life Pink Floyd's decade-old concept album about isolation and authoritarianism. This Berlin "Wall" realizes the spectacle that the 1982 film aimed at. There's plenty of drama here, not only in the building -- and eventual demolition -- of a 600-foot-long wall of Styrofoam bricks, but in the music itself: the Scorpions' "In the Flesh," Joni Mitchell's "Goodbye Blue Sky" and assorted songs by Waters as Pink, the passion play's droll rock star antihero. Other stars appear -- Cyndi Lauper, Sinead O'Connor, Van Morrison, Thomas Dolby and Bryan Adams among them -- but their performances often come across as little more than star turns. In the end, it's the sheer visual spectacle that makes it all work. And while Waters refused to reunite with the other members of Pink Floyd (Germany apparently was location, not inspiration), he did provide a more upbeat ending with a song from a later solo album, "The Tide Is Turning," done as a "We Are the World" finale. -- Richard Harrington

BIRD ON A WIREPG-13, 1990, 110 minutes, closed-captioned, MCA/Universal Home Video, $92.95.

"Bird on a Wire," with Mel Gibson and Goldie Hawn, is a junky, torpid adventure romance. Cut from the same bolt of cloth as "Romancing the Stone" (though not nearly in the same class), it lords its star power over us; it thinks the sheer cumulative adorableness of the principals will win us over and make up for its multitude of sins. There is nothing to this John Badham movie except the spectacle of determined stars turning the brilliance of their personalities on us. That and chases -- car chases, motorcycle chases, airplane and helicopter chases. Badham and his cinematographer, Robert Primes, have dispensed with such things as dramatic logic, lucidity, even coherence, and they care equally little about whether the camera is well placed to record the film's interminable action scenes. And in lieu of actual characters with real emotional lives, the actors are given bits of darling character business to play. What this amounts to mostly is that Hawn mumbles incomprehensibly whenever she's mad. And that Gibson refers to a certain part of his anatomy as "Mr. Wiggly." In the last scene, the happy couple are taking the sailing trip they promised themselves when they were in the thick of their adventure. And at the crucial moment, Gibson runs up a sail with "Mr. Wiggly" emblazoned across it. If the movie had actually unfurled Mr. Wiggly, it at least might have been direct about what was implied subliminally behind every scene. As it is, the movie's nothing but a tease. Behind the star's zipper is a smile button. -- Hal Hinson

BETSY'S WEDDING

R, 1990, 94 minutes, closed-captioned, Touchstone Home Video, $89.95.

As father of the bride and chief architect of "Betsy's Wedding," Alan Alda wears about as well as a bridesmaid's dress after the reception. The director, writer and star is as intrusive as an overzealous wedding photographer, an unctuous clown trampling all over bride-to-be Molly Ringwald's train. Inspired by his own daughter's nuptials, Alda's veil-thin opus is narcissism flourishing like ragweed. He's Alda over the place, Mr. Brie Britches any way you want him, from graying sex toy to sitcom daddykins. And as a director he hasn't got the sense to tell himself to sit down in front. Ringwald's gummy charms are per usual as Betsy, a plump fashion victim whose betrothal to blue blood Jake Lovell (Dyland Walsh) precipitates a clash of values. When the Lovells offer to pay for a bash, insecure Eddie Hopper (Alda) offers to throw an even grander wedding. Financially strapped, he turns to his unscrupulous brother-in-law (Joe Pesci), who has Mafia connections, for help. Enter Anthony LaPaglia, who just about saves the movie single-handedly, as a young don who falls in love with Betsy's jawsome sister (Ally Sheedy). As the wedding nears, all are sucked into the preconnubial maelstrom like rice in the wind. Don't say "I do" to this one. -- Rita Kempley

THE KING'S SINGERS IN CONCERT

Unrated, 1987, 26 minutes, Proscenium, $19.95.

At last report, there were only a few tickets left for this group's concert Sunday at the Kennedy Center. If you can't get to that, this all-too-short selection, taped for British television, will give you some idea of why the King's Singers (equally at home in classical, pop and folk music in a half-dozen languages) are the world's most popular serious vocal ensemble. This tape covers only a small part of their vast repertoire, and it is sung entirely in English except for "The Flight of the Bumblebee" and Duke Ellington's "Creole Love Call," where they produce instrumental sounds with often striking visual effects. Four numbers are folk songs of the British Isles (and you might wish, in vain, for subtitles when they get into dialect), and one is a piece composed for this group: "Sea Runes," a series of short, vivid vignettes of life in the Orkney Islands. The composer is Peter Maxwell Davies in his most recent, pastoral phase -- simple, melodic and charming. -- Joseph McLellan