From the Chicago Reader (December 1, 1992). — J.R.
Al Pacino’s winning entry in the disability Oscar sweepstakes, with plenty of reminders of Dead Poets Society to take up the slack once it runs out of ways of emulating Rain Man. Among the able hands in this scurrilous, overlong enterprise are screenwriter Bo Goldman, producer-director Martin Brest, and costar Chris O’Donnell; the plot, a very loose Americanized remake of a 1975 Dino Risi comedy, transpires over a Thanksgiving weekend, when a scholarship student (O’Donnell) at an expensive New England prep school, wrestling with an anguished crise de conscience (he’s being pressured to inform on classmates), is hired to take care of a blind retired lieutenant colonel (Pacino), who drags him along to Manhattan on a wild, expensive weekend. An irascible bully who proves to have a heart of gold, Pacino’s character seems manufactured by a computer programmed with box-office grosses, and it’s disheartening to find a movie that professes to take a stand on behalf of personal integrity ripping off Chaplin’s theme song from City Lights without credit to generate some of its pathos. Given the talent on board, there’s an undeniable flair and effectiveness in certain scenes (such as Pacino dancing the tango with a stranger in a posh restaurant), but the meretricious calculation finally sticks in one’s throat. With James Rebhorn, Gabrielle Anwar, Richard Venture, Bradley Whitford, Ron Eldard, and Philip S. Hoffman (1992). (JR)