(Air Date: Week Of 2/12/97)
"Touch", based on Elmore Leonard's novel of the same name, tells the story, lamely, of stigmatic, ex-monk and current alcohol-abuse counselor Juvenal, played by Johnny Depp-alike Skeet Ulrich. Juvie has the magic touch. Literally. When he lays hands on Conchatta Ferrel and restores her sight, the word gets out that a money-making proposition is on the loose without proper career management. Since this is L.A., it's just a matter of time before people are lining up in droves to capitalize on him for reasons that have, surprise surprise, little to do with the betterment of humanity. As for Juvie, his only priority is the golden rule of doing unto others as you would have done unto you. L.A. being L.A., you can only admire the depth of his calling that he chooses there to try to make THAT work.
Now I just know you're asking yourself, "How can this miss?" Lord knows, I did, especially while watching Christopher Walken try to work his twitchy magic as a huckster-preacher turned RV saleman. How bad was it? I found myself seriously wondering as I checked my watch for the twenty GAZZILLIONTH time, whether or not there was some sort of workman's comp in place for film critics.
Writer/director Paul Schrader, who wrote "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull", no less, projects a sharp, social satire through a glass blandly. In trying to make some sense of the catastrophe in progress, I came up with the theory that Mr. Schrader somehow didn't realize that this was supposed to be funny. And that the people around him were either too much in awe of him to set him straight, or they were making their own fun by keeping it to themselves. Obviously I had plenty of time to mull this over. It wasn't as though during the screening there was anything like, say a movie, to keep my mind from wandering.
I take some comfort in the fact that, after this, the chances of Mr. Schrader being offered another shot at satire is virtually nil. But, just in case, maybe someone should clip out the dictionary definition of satire and mail it to him. Now where did I leave my scissors?
Copyright 1997 Andrea Chase
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