A bonehead comedy about a none-too-bright boxer, "The Mouse" doesn't roar. Undistinguished low-budgeter might squeak by with minor video and cable prospects.

A bonehead comedy about a none-too-bright boxer, “The Mouse” doesn’t roar. Undistinguished low-budgeter might squeak by with minor video and cable prospects.

John Savage plays Bruce “The Mouse” Strauss, who allegedly holds the record for getting professionally knocked out (including KOs on every continent except Antarctica). That’s okay by him; he sees himself more as an entertainer than a sportsman, and is happy “shamming” most fights i.e., going just enough rounds against a superior opponent to justify getting his fee. Strauss also manages some other hapless, younger “shamsters” as a sideline. He flouts boxing commission rules by adopting aliases and disguises to get himself bouts, though the authorities are onto his game.

Pic is aiming to be a raffish, Damon Runyonesque portrait of lovable losers, but writer-director Daniel Adams hasn’t provided any colorful atmospheric detail. This is partly due to budget limitations a fight important enough to require an advance press conference, for instance, pulls in only a few dozen spectators. But dialogue is also pedestrian, and the chief character’s story hasn’t been given much narrative impetus. Far too much maudlin time is wasted on Omaha wife Mary Lou (a sour Angelica Torn), who threatens divorce if Mouse doesn’t abandon the tour circuit.

Savage takes his punches convincingly in the otherwise indifferently handled fight scenes. His loud, slow speech seems more drunken (or Bobcat Goldthwait-ish) than one might like, but perf has comic potential that helmer’s lack of timing finesse stifles. Rip Torn (Angelica’s father) turns up in a long, odd cameo as a trucker who thinks he’s God.

Tech aspects are just passable.

The Mouse

Production

An Early Morning Films presentation. Produced by Hank Blumenthal, Harris Tulchin, John Savage. Executive producers, Richard Segedoin, Charles Irish, Jimmy Walter. Co-producer, Matt Janes. Directed, written by Daniel Adams.

Crew

Camera (color), Denise Brassard; editor, Victoria Street; music, Jonathan Edwards; production design, Gay Studebaker; costumes, Deborah Newhall; casting, Sheila Jaffee, Georgianne Walken. Reviewed at Mill Valley Film Festival, Oct. 5, 1996. Running time: 98 MIN.

With

John Savage (Bruce "The Mouse" Strauss), Angelica Torn (Mary Lou), Charles Bailey-Gates, Irina Cashen, Tim Williams, Edward Lynch, Tommy Maken, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, Dominic Chianese, Richard Segedin, Rip Torn, Burt Young.
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