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‘Homer and Eddie’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 26, 1990


Andrei Konchalovsky
James Belushi;
Whoopi Goldberg;
Karen Black;
Anne Ramsey
Under 17 restricted

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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. (A movie with Leona Helmsley and Merv Griffin, maybe.) Anyway you slice though, the Beulah Land of Hepburn and Tracy, Bogart and Bacall, is light-years away. And the vehicle chosen for this pair isn't a frivolous one. It's a picture about a couple of down-and-outers -- an escaped mental patient with a brain tumor, named Edwina (Goldberg) 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.

It hardly makes a difference what they're in search of, though. "Homer and Eddie" is like a Water Buffalo Lodge production of "Of Mice and Men" with Fred Flintstone as Lenny. Homer, who wears hats with ears pulled tight over his noggin so as to look entirely ridiculous, was abandoned by his parents as a child after being cracked behind the ear with a baseball (or was that a metaphor). This explains why he is, as he puts it, the way he is. Now, after the passage of many years, he has decided to visit the folks in Oregon to catch up on old times. And Eddie, in the hopes of recovering the $87 that Homer had stolen from her, agrees to drive him there.

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 the "Dance of the Hours" sequence in Disney's "Fantasia." The true model for the character, though, seems to have been Jackie Gleason's The Poor Soul; Homer is the tender incarnation of the poetically afflicted, and in all of humankind, the one, truly good soul.

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. If you don't watch out, she's liable to smash her head up against a mirror too. Also, Eddie, who wears her angry dreadlocks stuffed up into the hood of her sweat shirt, doesn't deal at all well with authority, especially when it takes the form of a gas station attendant or a cashier at a convenience store. After meeting Eddie, service people are usually the sorrier for it. Or dead.

The point of the film is that Eddie, who has only about a month to live, is gathered into the fold of holy goodness by the redeeming love of Homer. Bless his soul, Homer ("You know, like you hit a homer ...") is the only one who can make Eddie smile, but though he persuades her to see a priest and confess her sins, he can't save her from herself, and the bad end that was expected from the start comes at last. Cinematographer Lajos Koltai makes beautiful, evocative use of the film's Western setting, and Konchalovsky has attempted to add some textural depth to writer Patrick Cirillo's road-picture banalities, but they're stylistic syrup over a colossally unappetizing meal.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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