When a movie sits on the shelf for more than a year before being released, it usually has some serious narrative problems. But "CrissCross" is surprisingly inept, considering the talent involved.
In fact, the real surprise here is that this film came to theaters instead of going straight to video. That says a lot about Hollywood's faith in the drawing power of Goldie Hawn's name.
But even her most dedicated fans will feel they've been suckered with this one.
Hawn's name is over the title, of course, but the lead role in the film goes to David Arnott, the boy who plays her son. (Chris Cross is the character's name, supposedly lending irony to the film's title.)
The setting is Key West, Fla., in 1969. You can identify the era by all the hippies wandering the streets, freely smoking marijuana and by an occasional Jimi Hendrix song heard faintly in the background.
Hawn is Tracy, a single mother struggling to make a life for herself and her 12-year-old son. She has three jobs and young Chris has five! But for some reason they can't seem to get out of the rundown hotel where they live or get a decent car.
To greatly increase her income in a strip joint where she's been a bartender, Tracy agrees to become a stripper herself. She doesn't tell Chris, however, leading to the inevitable moment when he sneaks into the club and sees his mother on stage.
Meanwhile, Chris discovers that one of his jobs, getting fish from a boat each day for the hotel chef, is really a drug-running operation. One of the fish is stuffed with cocaine.
Rather than tell his mother or go to the police he sees this as an opportunity for a big score and plots to sell the drugs himself.
All of this leads to the film's obvious moral, an anti-drug message.
Also in the cast is Keith Carradine, who has one scene as Chris' father, a Vietnam veteran who abandoned the family to work in a Miami monastery. (We are told that in the war he bombed a hospital full of kids and hasn't been the same since.) Arliss Howard plays a vacationer smitten by Tracy, James Gammon is the slovenly hotel manager and J.C. Quinn and Steve Buscemi are the hippie cooks who are running drugs.
All are accomplished actors, and director Chris Menges also has some stirring work to his credit as director of "A World Apart" and cinematographer of "The Mission" and "The Killing Fields" (the latter two winning him Oscars).
So it is all the more disconcerting to find that newcomer Arnott, though somewhat appealing (he resembles River Phoenix at this age), delivers a performance that has no energy whatsoever, and his line readings are as flat as any you've ever heard in a major movie. Of course, to be fair, it must be said that he's really no worse than the professionals who surround him. (As they are parting after a brief meeting, Chris' dad says to him in a monotone, "Try to be of good cheer.")
In fact, this entire film is so lethargic, so incredibly boring that audiences are likely to fall asleep before they catch on to how predictable the plot is in first-timer Scott Sommer's screenplay. (It's also full of pointless vulgar moments, as when Chris gets a lift from a female biker and is told to hold on to her breasts!)
Hawn has to take some of the blame here, not just for starring, but because her production company developed the film. Is it any wonder that she has returned to broad comedy with her next two pictures?
"CrissCross" is rated R for violence, profanity, vulgarity, nudity, sex and drugs.