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‘Wisdom’ (R)

By Paul Attanasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
January 01, 1987

Life has dealt John Wisdom (Emilio Estevez) a bad hand. Once upon a time, the future looked bright for him: law, or possibly medicine; two doting parents; a lovely girlfriend (Demi Moore). But then, fueled by the madcap high spirits of graduation night, he stole a car. Whoops! That felony rap sure looks bad on a résumé.

But a half hour into "Wisdom," Wisdom has an idea. Life, he realizes, has dealt The Common Man a bad hand, too. He decides to become a sort of Robin Hood, bombing file cabinets full of loans that the evil banks intend to foreclose. He and his girlfriend become a sort of Bonnie and Clyde, riding cross-country in a Subaru wagon, eating junk food, singing songs, making love.

You, the audience, become a sort of Rip van Winkle. Honey, wake me when it's over. Not the movie. The age.

For Estevez, who also wrote and directed, is at least in part a victim of his times. If you cornered Darryl Zanuck 50 years ago and told him that the studio he was building would end up giving entire movies to "stars" barely out of puberty, he might have collapsed on the spot. But he would at least have questioned the, uh, wisdom of the idea.

As a thriller, "Wisdom" is dull; as an examination of a terrorist's psychology, it is, paradoxically, both overly detailed and unilluminating; and as a meditation on the nature of fame in America today, it is portentous in the gloomy manner of what college catalogues call an "all-night bull session."

On the other hand, Moore springs to life whenever she's given a good sarcastic line to deliver. And if you stick around till the end, because your date wants to get his money's worth or whatever, there's a doozy of a car chase. If it had comprised the whole of "Wisdom," it would have lifted the movie to artistic heights previously scaled by Sunday afternoon stock car racing on ABC's "Wide World of Sports."

"Wisdom" contains profanity, violence and some mild sexual situations.

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