“Her Alibi” is not my favourite movie of 1989. That honour belongs to the British film, “Scandal”, about John Profumo and Christine Keeler, but “Her Alibi” is a highly enjoyable spoof which shows how a mystery writer’s mind bears only marginal resemblance to reality. Tom Selleck plays the author of a series of predictable detective novels who hangs out in courtrooms with other courtroom buffs, looking for material. His wife left him for a dentist, but in his books he always says she was incinerated. He drinks milk with chocolate syrup, but in his books he always says it’s bourbon. He falls in love with Romanian murder suspect Paulina Porizkova and furnishes her with a make-believe alibi for the night of the crime. They move in together, but he’s afraid of her because she kills cockroaches with sharp knives. They sleep in separate bedrooms and he shoves a bureau dresser in front of his door to protect himself. She cures his writer’s block, though. Hurd Hatfield, yes that Hurd Hatfield who played Dorian Gray once upon a time, but now looks more like Senator Bob Dole in this movie, is in relentless pursuit of Paulina, but why? Who is she, anyway?
The best thing about “Her Alibi” is Charlie Peters’ bright and inventive script. Only once, in a sequence involving a cat and a family dinner, does the plot lose its momentum, which it soon recovers. For the most part, though, the adventures of Selleck and Porizkova are laughably funny (especially one scene which features a bow-and-arrow) and Peters’ satire of the timid hack who leads a macho fantasy life has an authentic edge to it. William Daniels and James Farentino provide amusing support in character roles and Patrick Wayne has a well-played cameo as Selleck’s pony-tailed brother. Bruce Beresford directs “Her Alibi” in an affectionate style, blending physical slapstick and verbal counterpoint. If you’re expecting a Bond-style thriller, this may not be your movie. But if you don’t mind taking a look at a gentle soul who writes Bond-style thrillers, “Her Alibi” offers a charming view of his interior world.
© 2006 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 8/9/06
USA - 1989