The Evening Star

on December 27, 1996 by Kim Williamson
   An unenthusiastic sequel to 1983's multi-Oscar winning "Terms of Endearment," this Rysher production suffers from one key drawback: It's unneeded. As Billy Crystal & co. discovered with "City Slickers II," there's no way, or reason, to improve on the original. Robert Harling (who scripted "The First Wives Club") here makes his directing debut, but it's the screenplay that seems unseasoned.
   The story is fragmented, following the indominatable Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) willy-nilly as she scratches and scrapes against a variety of antagonists. Among them are her three troubled grandchildren (an underused but still diverting Juliette Lewis, Mackenzie Astin and George Newbern), who have been in Aurora's care--they might prefer the word incarceration--since their mother Emma (played earlier by a much-missed Debra Winger) passed away; Emma's best friend Patsy (a perky Miranda Richardson); a young therapist (Bill Paxton) with whom Aurora has an unlikely romance; and, far too eventually, former retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). Her one sure friend is her housekeeper, Rosie (a superbly human Marion Ross), but Rosie is contemplating marriage.
   Like a retiring baseball player taking a last circle toward home, "The Evening Star" seems engineered to touch all the old bases. Characters are shuffled onstage and off as their bows are deemed needed; the Aurora-Garrett drive along the beach is even reprised. Experienced trouper she is, MacLaine at least keeps matters admirably afloat, even if the narrative zing is gone; powered by her performance, "The Evening Star" is likely to keep audiences mildly entertained for its 129-minute run (which feels longer). But this is a pale copy; when "The Evening Star" and Aurora meet their end together, none will wish for a part three. Starring Shirley MacLaine, Bill Paxton, Juliette Lewis, Miranda Richardson, Marion Ross and Jack Nicholson. Directed and written by Robert Harling. Produced by David Kirkpatrick, Polly Platt and Keith Samples. A Paramount release. Comedy/drama. Rated PG-13 for some sexual situations and brief strong language. Running time: 129 min
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