ANOTHER 48 HRS.
1990, R, 98 minutes, closed-captioned, Paramount Home Video, $92.95.
"Another 48 Hrs.," the follow-up to the enormously successful salt 'n' pepper buddy movie prototype, isn't so much a sequel as a Xerox. You're darn tootin' it's another "48 Hrs." -- down to the last bullet, the last loving buddy look. The setup is the same, the characters are the same, even the jokes and some of the scenes are the same. The only difference is that nobody seems to be having much fun this time out -- the audience least of all. Once again, Jack (Nick Nolte) needs help from Reggie (Eddie Murphy) and visits him in prison to renew their friendship. If you were figuring that after eight years Reggie would have gotten out of jail, you figured wrong. When Reggie and Jack are reintroduced, though, Reggie turns a cold shoulder. You see, not only does Jack have $175,000 of his money, but never once in all those years since they worked together has Jack come to visit him. A man has feelings, doesn't he? The main characters tease each other with abandon, fight and jockey for dominance just like every other young couple in love. Murphy and Nolte approach the task as if reprising their roles were some sort of enforced labor -- as if they'd been sentenced to make this picture and weren't at all happy about it. The movie is all explosions and gunplay and very little wit. Walter Hill, who also directed the earlier picture, has given this installment a gut-deep viciousness -- the picture nearly growls -- and he and his cinematographer, Matthew Leonetti, have put some gorgeously brutal images on screen. But there are just as many unfocused, flaccidly directed scenes as there are brilliant ones. -- Hal Hinson
PG, 1990, 84 minutes, closed-captioned, MCA/Universal Home Video, $91.95.
Bill Cosby has an out-of-sitcom experience in this benign look at transparenthood, a slight Huxtablian comedy that's a shade too blithe to be regarded as spirited. The TV doctor plays a workaholic widower who has not been making time for his three kids (Salim Grant, Brooke Fontaine and Kimberly Russell) when he suddenly finds himself on the astral plane with only a ghost of a chance at making amends. With help from his neighbor (Denise Nicholas), a British psychic (Ian Bannen) and the children, he manages to prevail. Directed by Sidney Poitier and written by "Short Circuit's" Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson, the movie is a bit like a not-so-funny "Uncle Buck" beyond the pale. The story focuses on a father's nonfinancial debts to his loved ones, an earnest premise expounded in Cosby's typical comic style. -- Rita Kempley
ERNEST GOES TO JAIL
PG, 1990, 100 minutes, closed-captioned, Touchstone Home Video, $89.95.
The good news is "Ernest Goes to Jail." The bad news is he gets out. Beloved huckster Jim Varney has his third outing as Ernest P. Worrell, here a bank janitor who becomes a juror in a murder trial. When the defendant notices that Ernest is a dead ringer for imprisoned crime boss Felix Nash, a switch is arranged and Ernest must do hard time. An endearing boob, he manages to befriend the other convicts and extricate himself from the big house. John Cherry, the director of all three Ernest movies, the Ernest TV special and the "Hey Vern" commercials, continues to make a good living by underestimating the American taste. -- Rita Kempley
LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN
R, 1990, 103 minutes. closed-captioned, RCA/Columbia Pictures Home Video, $89.95.
"Last Exit to Brooklyn," Uli Edel's lurid, grandiose adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.'s controversial 1964 novel, takes place in a perpetual state of ashen gray malaise. Its setting is the early '50s in the waterfront area near Red Hook, Brooklyn, a world of closed-down storefronts, striking factory workers, vamping transvestites, teen prostitutes and brutal punks. For Selby, this night-bound universe was a dehumanized land's-end, the site where the world had collapsed in its own refuse. The pitch of Selby's book is close to hysterical, and the movie is doggedly faithful to its spirit, down to the last ruined life, the last bloodstained sidewalk. The feel that Edel has gone after is one of epic, hallucinatory bleakness. This is Brooklyn with an overlay of Wagner and Brecht, where sex, poverty, violence and drugs all mingle into a kind of feverish, teeming evil. The squalor of these empty streets isn't superficial, it's soul-deep. Edel, whose best-known work before this was the German feature "Christiane F.," has a talent for large-scaled dynamism. In fact, "Last Exit" may be too overheated, too dynamic. Edel and screenwriter Desmond Nakano have re-created the churning muscularity of Selby's prose style, but the events of the novel seem garish and over-scaled when depicted onscreen. What he comes closer to achieving, though, is a kind of malignant sensationalism. One horror falls hard on the heels of another and in such a rush that our feeling for the characters themselves is overwhelmed. -- Hal Hinson