"Breaking the Rules" is a stillborn road movie, way too maudlin to be touching or amusing. On the shelf for over three years, pic emerges as a poor entry in all markets.

“Breaking the Rules” is a stillborn road movie, way too maudlin to be touching or amusing. On the shelf for over three years, pic emerges as a poor entry in all markets.

Shot under the title “Sketches” in 1989 in since-defunct MCEG’s final production burst, pic bears all the marks of a TV movie, yet unlike most of the other MCEG leftovers (such as the upcoming cable debuter “Chains of Gold”) it is inexplicably receiving a lameduck theatrical release from Miramax.

Cold storage hasn’t helped the picture, which now seems like a retread of several films released in its absence. Gimmick of three 22-year-old guys from Cleveland trekking to Los Angeles for a final fling is old-hat in the extreme.

Paul W. Shapiro’s lame screenplay has topliner Jason Bateman sentenced to one month to live from leukemia. On the pretext of an engagement party (he has no girl friend) he gets his boyhood pals Jonathan Silverman and C. Thomas Howell to come home to Shaker Heights and drops the bad news on them.

Pic gets off on a very bad foot when the trio on a corner basketball court decide to go to L.A. to get Bateman a dreamed-of shot on “Jeopardy,” a gimmick subsequently well-used to set “White Men Can’t Jump” into motion.

Trio pack into a van for uninteresting and unatmospheric adventures on the road (Cleveland and other locales are poorly faked in Sacramento and environs). Film perks up a bit halfway with the entrance of diner waitress Annie Potts who sort of adopts the trio.

A dull trip to Reno results in Bateman’s whirlwind marriage to Potts, but she elects to sleep with Silverman instead. By the time Bateman expires in Potts’ arms in a California motel room in a poorly directed scene, any audience’s patience will have been exhausted.

Working very hard, Silverman and Howell constantly upstage Bateman, a bad misstep for what is ostensibly a Bateman vehicle (his dad Kent Bateman co-produced and even appears as his film dad on-screen). Potts is endearing in spite of her paper-thin role as the stereotyped free-spirit “older woman.”

Comedy helmer Neal Israel gets very few laughs for his efforts and pic suffers from an over-emphasis on the trio’s talents as a would-be vocal group (obviously dubbed, credited to the Bobs).

Breaking the Rules

Production

A Miramax Films release of a Sterling Entertainment presentation of a Jonathan D. Krane production. Produced by Krane, Kent Bateman. Executive producers, Larry Thompson, Deborah J. Simon. Directed by Neal Israel. Screenplay , Paul W. Shapiro.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor), James Hayman; editor, Tom Walls; music, David Kitay; sound (Dolby), Ed White; production design, Donald Light-Harris; costume design, Giovanna Ottobe-Melton; assistant director, Matthew Carlisle; production manager, Tikki Goldberg; stunt coordinator & 2nd unit director, Chris Howell; 2nd unit camera, Bob New; line producer, Elliot Rosenblatt; casting, Eliza Simons, Pam Rack. Reviewed at Manhattan 1 theater, N.Y., Oct. 9, 1992. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 100 min.

With

Phil Stepler - Jason Bateman
Gene Michaels - C. Thomas Howell
Rob Konigsberg - Jonathan Silverman
Mary Klinglitch - Annie Potts
Rob's date - Krista Kesreau
Phil's dad - Kent Bateman
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