When she emerged as a performer in the early ‘80s, Whoopi Goldberg was a unique flavor of the week.
It’s even more unique that, all this time later, her star has only continued to grow.
Hollywood does love to eat its own.
Aside from that sad fact, though, Goldberg has often been her own worst enemy. Consider some of the turkeys she has starred in over the years:
The would-be action comedies “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (1986), “Burglar” (1987) and “Fatal Beauty” (1987).
The heartfelt-if-flawed dramas and/or musicals “Clara’s Heart” (1988), “The Long Walk Home” (1990) and “Sarafina!” (1992).
The hard-to-figure-out-whatthey-are “The Telephone” (1988) and “Homer & Eddie (1990).
Still, aside from her television work - “Star Trek: The New Generation,” the short-lived “Bagdad Cafe” and recurring work on HBO’s “Comic Relief” - there have been the few movie hits.
Even a decade later, her performance in “The Color Purple” remains her best dramatic work. She saved her career, and won an Oscar in the process, by providing the light touch to “Ghost” (1990). She was sharp-edged and authoritative in both “Soapdish” (1991) and “The Player” (1992).
And although she resorted to her over-the-top comic bits, she helped make the 1992 comedy “Sister Act” a surprise hit. She was more controlled, though just as effective, in the underrated “Made in America” (1993).
Since then, though, she’s been backtracking. Once again, she’s been choosing roles with an eye more toward pay than play. “Sister Act 2” (1993), for one, is a pale reflection of the original.
And then there’s “Corrina, Corrina,” which comes out on video Tuesday (see capsule review below).
On the surface, this 1950s period piece would seem a curious - if promising - project. Goldberg’s character is a college-educated woman who is frustrated by the limitations facing any black, much less any woman, with hopes of being a professional. So she takes the only job she can find, that of housekeeper.
Two of the film’s other strengths are Ray Liotta, who has yet to put in a bad performance since his 1986 debut in “Something Wild,” and Tina Majorino, who was so good in the recent Meg Ryan-Andy Garcia weeper “When a Man Loves a Woman.”
Liotta is the widower who is losing touch with his pre-pubescent daughter Majorino. An advertising copywriter (a la both Darrins on “Bewitched”), Liotta spends his time trying to think of product jingles, interviewing potential housekeepers (a la “Mrs. Doubtfire”) and trying to be a father to his troubled little girl.
Enter Goldberg, who, predictably, becomes not only a mother figure to Majorino but also a likely love interest for Liotta.
So what goes wrong? Let us count the ways:
Direction: Director Jessie Nelson has no sense of pacing or even of scene construction. Thus, her talented performers are left to flounder.
Screenplay: Not only are we given no real reason for the two main characters to find love, especially considering how selfabsorbed Liotta’s suburban daddy is, the easy psychological answers offered for a girl’s genuine grief are condescending.
Goldberg: She’s just coasting here. Throughout much of the movie, she plays the same wisecracking character she’s always played, holding off her true feelings with a barbed retort or two. By the time she gets vulnerable, it’s clear that she needs either a good therapist or a satisfying job, perferably both. What she does not need is a ‘50s-era can-do white guy with a needy pre-teen.
Love her or hate her, you have to admit that Whoopi Goldberg has talent. The chief one these days, though, seems to be her ability to make one bad film after another and still continue as a star.
Shop ‘til you drop
Finding video bargains is largely a matter of chance. If you haunt the stores that handle video, both the discount department stores and the various video outlets, you’ll stumble upon a good deal sooner or later.
But you have to pounce. I once purchased “Dr. No,” the 1962 debut of Sean Connery as James Bond, for $9.99 at an area chain store. But when I went back the next week, money in hand, to get “Goldfinger” and “From Russia With Love,” the shelves were empty.
Of course, real deal-seekers work the mail-order companies. One that continually crosses my desk is “Critic’s Choice Video,” an Illinoisbased company that boasts one-day delivery and occasional sale prices.
And it’s not every video catalog that boasts not one but two “Baywatch” movies for just $9.98 apiece.
To order a free catalog, call (800) 367-7765.
What’s new to view
The week’s releases (dates are tentative):
Tuesday - “Blankman” (Columbia TriStar), “The Color of Night” (THV), “Corrina, Corrina” (New Line), “Little Giants” (Warner).
This little ‘50s-era period piece involves a widower (Ray Liotta) and his daughter (Tina Majorino) whose recovery from the untimely death of his wife and her mother is aided when he hires a housekeeper (Whoopi Goldberg). It proves that Liotta can read the phone book and still pull off an interesting performance. It also demonstrates the full range of abilities of pre-teen actress Majorino. Mostly, though, it shows the utter ineptness of writerdirector Jessie Nelson, who doesn’t seem to understand the basics of filmmaking: i.e., how too many cuts tend to destroy dramatic tension and how a script full of holes can only be helped, not saved, by good acting. Rated PG.
“Blankman” - Damon Wayans, who shot to fame on his big brother Keenen Ivory’s show “In Living Color,” portrays a wimpy superhero.
“The Color of Night” - Bruce Willis takes over a dead friend’s psychiatric practice and finds a bit of danger himself.
“Little Giants” - Rick Moranis coaches a team of Little League losers against his obnoxious big brother (Ed O’Neill).