Unforgettable is the last word that describes “Forget Paris,” an intermittently funny but ultimately meaningless comedy.
Produced, directed and co-written by Billy Crystal, this all-too-eager-toplease production also stars Crystal as Mickey, a pro-basketball ref who falls in love with Ellen, an airline exec played by Debra Winger.
Having bombed out with “Mr. Saturday Night” (1992) and last year’s “City Slickers II,” Crystal seems hellbent on winning back his audience from “When Harry Met Sally …” (1989). In “Forget Paris” he tries, not always successfully, to charm us with a collection of unlikely incidents - experiences evidently from Crystal and his friends.
Mickey meets Ellen after he flies to France to bury his father, whose body is temporarily lost by the airline. Ellen, who works for the airline in Paris, comes to the rescue.
In a later, goofier scene, Ellen gets a live bird stuck to her head. And in another, even goofier one, Mickey and Ellen go to a fertility clinic where Mickey has considerable trouble providing sperm on demand. (This extended sequence is the movie’s equivalent of the fake-orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally …”)
Because Mickey’s reffing keeps him on the road for much of the year, his relationship with Ellen is always on the verge of collapse.
In charting the ups and downs - mostly downs - of the relationship, Crystal and his collaborators (including screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel of the “City Slickers” films) seem to want to prove that marriage is impossible.
But the movie ends with an unqualified affirmation of wedlock - which is why “Forget Paris” ultimately is meaningless. Crystal is so determined not to leave his audience unhappy that he’s willing to contradict the point of his film.
He’s funniest in his scenes on the basketball court, where the inflexibility and anger that lurk beneath his nice-guy exterior are sometimes allowed to emerge. But there’s no connection between the character on and off the court.
Winger’s comic timing is good enough to get laughs, but she seems thrown by the role because it requires her to come off as “ordinary.” That’s something no one should ever expect of Debra Winger.
“Forget Paris” is told in flashback from the perspective of Mickey’s friends, who are waiting for him to arrive at a restaurant after a basketball game.
Joe Mantegna and Cynthia Stevenson are a soon-to-be-married couple at the table, Richard Masur and Julie Kavner are a long-married couple, and John Spencer and Cathy Moriarty, a third couple, have each been married before. Such hoop stars as Charles Barkley, Isiah Thomas, Patrick Ewing and Kareem AbdulJabbar pop up in cameos.
Easily the funniest performance is offered by William Hickey as Ellen’s aged and possibly senile father, who wanders through the movie, mindlessly repeating an automobile manufacturer’s catch phrase.
“You asked for it, you got it …” he says, again and again. That would seem to be Crystal’s motto too.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Forget Paris” Location: Lincoln Heights, Newport and Coeur d’Alene cinemas. Credits: Directed by Billy Crystal and starring Crystal, Debra Winger and William Hickey Running time: 1:40 Rating: PG-13