Mr. Magoo

on December 25, 1997 by Luisa F. Ribeiro
   On paper, the idea doesn't sound half bad: Take director Stanley Tong, who's directed three Jackie Chan cartoon-like action films, including "Rumble in the Bronx," and give him a crack at the first live-action version of the endearing cartoon figure Mr. Magoo, who unwittingly causes mayhem wherever he goes. The result from Disney is, alas, most unfortunate and, worse yet, rarely funny, especially for those who affectionately recall the singular, bald cartoon figure and delightful muttered vocal eccentricities provided by the late Jim Backus. Although Tong obviously hoped to recreate slapstick, dynamic physical shtick in the tradition of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, and despite a game Leslie Nielsen as Magoo, incessant one-note jokes about Magoo's myopic bumblings quickly grow tiresome and not a little offensive. The cartoon Magoo's peculiarity was a near-sighted squint that resulted in amusing visual puns and outlandish disasters; however, the permissible excess of animation doesn't always translate as such in real life.
   The bedlam begins when vegetable king Magoo assists in the grand opening of a local museum, whose prime exhibit is the rare Kuristan jewel, which is quickly stolen by queen-of-disguise villainess Luanne Luseur (Kelly Lynch, who comes off as a mislaid Bond girl complete with Chan high-kicks) for evil mobster Austin Cloquet (Malcolm McDowell, in little more than a cameo). When Magoo obliviously ends up with the gem, he's immediately the center of attention from the Kuristan government, the FBI, the CIA, Luanne, and his nephew Waldo, and eventually the target of notorious Brazilian kingpin Ortega Peru (Miguel Ferrer). With only his bulldog Angus (the best thing in the film) wise to the situation, Magoo's shortsighted bungling has everyone in knots until the end when he takes an active part in recovering the precious stone.
   Tong keeps things moving along briskly with everything from car chases to plunges down snowy mountains and an impressive waterfall climax, but it's all in vain in this flat foolishness that will leave even the kids bored silly.    Starring Leslie Nielsen and Kelly Lynch. Directed by Stanley Tong. Written by Pat Proft and Tom Sherohman. Produced by Ben Myron. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated PG for mild language and action sequences. Running time: 85 min.
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