Aone-joke sketch that doesn't work as a feature, Castle Rock's "Amos & Andrew" raises the question: "How did this film ever get made?" Few audience members will sit through its entirety to ponder that issue.

Aone-joke sketch that doesn’t work as a feature, Castle Rock’s “Amos & Andrew” raises the question: “How did this film ever get made?” Few audience members will sit through its entirety to ponder that issue.

Debuting director E. Max Frye, who previously penned Jonathan Demme’s uneven “Something Wild,” has the temerity to attempt a satire of contemporary racism that employs strictly stereotyped characters and typecast actors.

With barely a switcheroo or comedic reversal in sight, Frye postulates a Pulitzer Prize-winning African-American writer, Andrew Sterling (played unsympathetically by Samuel L. Jackson), who buys asummer home on exclusive Watauga Island, Mass., and moves in undetected one day.

Neighbors Michael Lerner and Margaret Colin don’t know the place has been sold and think Jackson is a burglar because he’s black. They summon the cops, led by Dabney Coleman (who’s running for political office), and somehow deduce, practically out of thin air, that Jackson is holding hostages.

Coleman’s chief deputy is Brad Dourif, who dons camouflage makeup and opens fire on Jacksonafter mistaking latter’s car beeper for a 9mm pistol.

When Coleman finds out who Jackson really is, he sees his political career going up in flames. To cover up the police gaffe, he cajoles recently arrested white-trash Nicolas Cage into posing as hothead Dourif in exchange for being allowed to quietly leave town after faking Jackson’s kidnapping.

Predictably, things escalate, with Coleman double-crossing Cage and an opportunistic media circus erupting to cover the siege at Sterling’s mansion. The wildly incompatible Cage and Jackson bond against a common enemy, and the viewer looks at his watch with a full hour of movie to go.

Scenes like the police opening fire on Jackson in his home play like a docu, and slapstick gags fall flat. When Jackson lapses into preachy speeches, Frye’s pretense of satire is in doubt.

Since bad taste is usually the savior of failed modern comedy, Frye tries to inject some, but with such timidity that even a bit of down and dirty doesn’t pep things up.

For example, there’s a too-tastefully dangled subplot of Lerner and Colin supposedly indulging in kinky S&M sex, and the recurring but unresolved plot device of Cage’s fondness for underage girls, in particular cute pizza delivery lady Aimee Graham.

Film’s premise might have been mildly amusing if some twist were offered; for instance, given pic’s title, have both lead roles played by blacks representing different social strata.

Cage uses overdone physical shtick for momentary amusement and gets to recite an endless shaggy dog story about sea monkeys that some folks might find amusing. Jackson is miscast, with a relentless heaviness to his performance.

In addition to Coleman and Dourif, the film miscasts Giancarlo Esposito as a black activist minister from New York who tries to exploit the situation by rabble-rousing; Bob Balaban as a hostage-situation expert who’s a milquetoast shrink, and Tracey Walter as a good ol’ boy with bloodhounds.

“Amos” is unlikely to be listed on any of their resumes.

Amos & Andrew


A Columbia Pictures release of a Castle Rock Entertainment production, in association with New Line Cinema. Produced by Gary Goetzman. Directed, written by E. Max Frye.


Camera (Technicolor), Walt Lloyd; editor, Jane Kurson; music, Richard Gibbs; production and costume design, Patricia Norris; sound (Dolby), John Pritchett; stunt coordinator, Glenn Randall Jr.; co-producers, Marshall Persinger, Cummins; assistant director, Henry Bronchtein; casting, John Lyons. Reviewed at Loews 19th St. 5 theater, N.Y., Feb. 4, 1993. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 94 min.


Amos Odell - Nicolas Cage
Andrew Sterling - Samuel L. Jackson
Chief Tolliver - Dabney Coleman
Phil Gillman - Michael Lerner
Judy Gillman - Margaret Colin
Officer Donaldson - Brad Dourif
Rev. Brunch - Giancarlo Esposito
Dr. Fink - Bob Balaban
Waldo - I.M. Hobson
Earl - Chelcie Ross
Wendy Wong - Jodi Long
Bloodhounds man - Tracey Walter
Stacy - Aimee Graham
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