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By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 29, 1988


Dan Goldberg
Mary Gross;
Rebecca DeMornay;
Ken Marshall
Children under 13 should be accompanied by a parent

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Rebecca DeMornay is an ex-Marine who wants to kick some butt. Mary Gross is a Bryn Mawr grad who thinks she maybe wants to kick some butt. They're just a couple of Republican gals in a girl buddy cop odd couple bittersweet action comedy adventure. What to do, but harness all those raging hormones?

"Feds" is an unlikely blend of Reaganism, avenging nerds and penis envy (masquerading as feminism in this guy-written movie). And yet it's as cliche'd as J. Edgar Hoover's trench coat. Why? Because it was originally written as a boy buddy cop odd couple bittersweet action comedy adventure. They just couldn't get two guys they liked, say writer-director Dan Goldberg and his sidekick Len Blum (of the monosyllabically insignificant "Stripes" and "Meatballs").

So DeMornay, as the macho Ellie, joins Gross, as the Junior League Janis, both struggling new recruits at the FBI Academy at Quantico. Only one in three women passes this tough course, warns the head of the training facility. The white male candidates -- and a token buppie -- smirk knowingly. Only the sensitive, studious Howard Butz (Larry Cedar) takes the women seriously. Eventually he joins them in outwitting the regular guys led by chief critic Brent Sheppard (Kenneth Marshall), a pedigreed blond of the sort often seen feeling up his chin in a shaving cream commercial.

But first the physically fit Ellie and the brainy Janis must become fast friends as they help each other over their respective hurdles. Ellie gets help with her schoolwork, and Janis learns to knee men in the crotch and understand her gun. "It's like a relationship with a guy," coos Ellie. "Next thing you know you're in bed thinking about target practice." Once Janis gets even whinier than usual and threatens to go home. Ellie reminds her that Richard Nixon tried and failed to get into the FBI. "You've come further than Nixon and you're going to quit?" she says reverently. This is the bittersweet part. And the women go forward inspired.

Neither DeMornay nor Gross makes an amusing or believable gangbuster. But then they are playing badly written, weirdly reactionary parts. And then neither packs her pistol quite like Dirty Harry.

Feds, at area theaters, is rated PG-13.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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