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‘Mystery Date’ (PG-13)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 16, 1991

"Mystery Date" is an exclamation point movie. Built on nothing but zany high points, it survives entirely on plot surprise.

For the right crowd -- those who enjoyed "Adventures in Babysitting" for instance -- it's an amusing, frenetic ride. But for those of us who can remember the last book we read, it's a wearying spectacle.

Ethan Hawke is a neat, shy guy from an upper-income family! He falls head over heels for beautiful neighbor Teri Polo! And wow, is she ever gorgeous! Mystery girl, awesome perm, babe! Hawke's going nuts!

Wait till you meet Hawke's parents! They're REALLY wacky! They have this prize schnauzer called Napoleon that they treat just like a son! They even have a celebration party when Napoleon's selected for a national dog competition! You should see their dog clock that barks on the hour! You should hear their answering message with Napoleon's barks on it! They go out of town for the contest and leave Ethan Home Alone!

Holy subplot! Here comes Brian McNamara, Ethan's ultra-slick hero of an older brother! He decides to help his kid brother score with Polo! He fishes through her trash bags and finds a credit card receipt with her name! He calls her up, pretending to be Ethan! He gets her to agree on a date! THAT VERY NIGHT!

Boy, is Ethan nervous! McNamara dresses up his kid brother to look exactly like him! Sets him up with a credit card, flowers, limo and pushes him towards her door!

(We pause here for an exclamation break. Let a balmy breeze caress your face over a beer at your local pub. Let a cool dive into the ocean at Bethany Beach cure all your woes. Let your canoe glide like a swan down the C&O Canal . . . Now get back in there and have some fun!)

The flower delivery van backs into the limousine! So, Hawke has to use his brother's amazing 1959 DeSoto convertible! The girl of his dreams hops in, they zoom off to Dateland and things look excellent! Until the subplot kicks in again!It turns out everyone hates Hawke's brother! And Hawke looks just like him! Women slap him in the face! A cop's following him! The Chinese mafia (led by B. D. Wong) wants him! When Polo goes to the restroom at a gas station, the cop slams Hawke against the car to bust him!And wow, is she ever gorgeous! Mystery girl, awesome perm, babe! Hawke's going nuts!

Before you can say, "Hey, what gives?" there's a gunfire from the trunk! There was a guy in there all the time! Go figure! Now two guys lie dead and the date's hardly even begun! Hawke stuffs the cop's body into the car just before unsuspecting Polo returns! The date continues!

With the Mafia and the police and even the flower boy after Hawke, he's got to stay alive, figure out why everyone's after his brother and make sure the date's a big hit! More bodies fall! Hawke is considered armed, psychotic and dangerous! It's just a matter of time (a long matter of time) before Hawke has some 'splaining to do for bewildered Polo!

Maybe this kind of "Date" is for you! But guess what! I'd rather be at the pub!

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