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‘Mr. Wrong’ (PG-13)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 17, 1996

"Mr. Wrong," a sour, listless debunking of romantic comedies, has fewer laughs than "Looking for Mr. Goodbar." The premise—Prince Charming as sicko stalker—is the stuff of many a desperately seeking single's nightmare.

Ellen DeGeneres, a comedian and sitcom star in her film debut, is ostensibly the protagonist here. But it's Bill Pullman, in the off-kilter title role, who controls the action; DeGeneres, as Martha Alston, merely reacts to his twists and turn-ons. The loonier he becomes, the more she retreats from the world. It's almost as if we're watching a documentary on abused spouse syndrome.

Martha, vulnerable to other people's opinions from the start, is nudged into action by her younger sister's marriage. Her parents, her co-workers, even her best friend urge the 31-year-old to find herself a man. Of course, her true soulmate, Walter (John Livingston), is right there under her nose. Naturally, she doesn't notice.

Enter Whitman Crawford (Pullman), a ruggedly handsome and successful investor with the passionate, sensitive soul of Madison County romeo Robert Kincaid. He has an impressive home, a snazzy convertible, and there's a bonus: He's a published poet. His recitation of one of his rambling and ghastly verses provides the first hint of the lunatic lurking behind the facade.

And soon, Whitman feels comfortable enough with the progress of their affair to be himself. Martha attempts to break off the relationship, but he pursues her relentlessly with phone calls, faxes, flowers, candy and stuffed animals. When this doesn't work, relentlessly becomes ruthlessly. Drugs, kidnapping, attempted murder and wrongful arrest ensue.

DeGeneres, clearly baffled about how she—or any other comic—fits into this picture, is further hamstrung by Nick Castle's uncertain direction. Castle, whose last film was "Major Payne," can't decide what to do with this bleak, witlessly written material. The least he could have done was photograph her from an attractive angle. The poor dear looks chunky and worn. Like the character she plays, DeGeneres is also a victim of Mr. Wrong.

Mr. Wrong is rated PG-13 for sexual situations and adult subject matter.

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