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‘Mr. Nanny’ (PG)

By Jane Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 13, 1993

"Mr. Nanny," a dumbed-down variation on "Kindergarten Cop," uses the same ingredients that made the (only slightly) classier Schwarzenegger comedy a hit: A muscle-bound galoot, hired to protect young kids, puts them in even greater jeopardy while he slam-dances with the villains. Those ingredients don't blend well in "Mr. Nanny," and they sure leave lumps.

Parents will cringe at the surprising level of violence in this PG "Nanny," just as they did at "Cop." Each crash of a head into a wall turns graphically into BOOM-THWACK-CRUNCH on the soundtrack. At least the THWACK-ing here involves little gunplay.

Terry "Hulk" Hogan plays Sean Armstrong, a washed-up wrestler (quite a stretch, acting-wise) who spends his days fishing on a Florida pier and dreaming of his exploits in the ring. When his former manager (Sherman Hemsley) shows up and offers Sean a job as a security guard, he takes it to help out the wily old fellow, whose rent-a-cop business teeters on bankruptcy.

The firm's client, a widowed computer chip magnate named Mason (Austin Pendleton), needs a bodyguard-nanny for his two bratty children (Robert Gorman and Madeline Zima). The motherless Mason kids have thus far specialized in destroying many a would-be Mary Poppins and view Sean as an exciting challenge.

Their genius father has invented a microchip that guides a revolutionary new missile defense system. The bad guy, Thanatos (David Johansen, chewing scenery like mad), describes himself as "just your average psychotic criminal genius" and wants that chip badly, presumably to conquer the world. He has threatened to kidnap Mason's children to extort it from him.

It falls to Armstrong to foil Thanatos and his minions, teach those rotten kids to behave and make their workaholic dad understand that they really just miss their mother and need love. No problem.

In its cynical blending of children, superstar, guns and comedy, "Kindergarten Cop" was execrable, but it was slick. "Mr. Nanny" isn't slick, it's sticky. This is cartoon comedy without the timing. Parents will groan, but kids may chortle over the "Home Alone"-style buffoonery: Alex and Kate Mason smear butter on the banister so Armstrong will come crashing down. They douse him with red dye, then garnish him with flour.

At a recent showing of the film, a mother was overheard saying that the violence in "Mr. Nanny" made her "sick," while her kids, both probably under 10, said they thought it was "really cool." Go figure.

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