Review: ‘Excess Baggage’

Hollywood's big-bang summer ends with a whimper in "Excess Baggage," a film so airy that viewers will forget about it even while they're watching it. The pic is unlikely to register much more than a blip on the box office radar, but it's harmless enough, and the recognizable-name cast and Benicio Del Toro's eccentric, likable performance should ensure an OK time in ancillary markets.

Hollywood’s big-bang summer ends with a whimper in “Excess Baggage,” a film so airy that viewers will forget about it even while they’re watching it. The pic is unlikely to register much more than a blip on the box office radar, but it’s harmless enough, and the recognizable-name cast and Benicio Del Toro’s eccentric, likable performance should ensure an OK time in ancillary markets.

“Baggage” is the first pic from Alicia Silverstone’s First Kiss Prods. and serves as another reminder that actors are not always the best judges of their own material. Though she knows how to capitalize on her girl-woman appeal, Silverstone plays the least interesting character in the film, and, as a showcase, the role falls far short of her star-making turn in “Clueless.”

Film starts promisingly enough with rich girl Emily Hope (Silverstone) electronically disguising her voice and demanding ransom from her wealthy father, then faking her kidnapping by locking herself in the trunk of her BMW. But professional thief Vincent (Del Toro) steals the car, which sets off complications.

The two are pursued by police detectives (Robert Wisden, Leland Orser) who assume the kidnapping is real; two thugs (Nicholas Turturro and Michael Bowen) who are adversaries of Vincent; and “Uncle” Ray, an old friend of Emily’s father who, since he is played by Christopher Walken, is cool and sinister.

Pic has requisite trappings of “fun” summer films: a car chase or two, a few explosions, subsidiary characters flying through glass windows, I-love-you/I-hate-you bantering of the leads, and a soundtrack filled with rock songs.

But everything is slightly off: Most of the jokes fall flat, Silverstone and Del Toro can’t seem to get a rhythm going in their scenes together, and the plot is straightforward but sometimes hard to follow (Vincent and Emily stick together for no apparent reason other than the fact that they are the leads). Still, it’s not a terrible film and has some interesting elements. Given Hollywood’s penchant for remakes, maybe somebody can rework the material in about five years.

Director Marco Brambilla does a serviceable job, without adding much distinction to the piece, and the script — credited to Max D. Adams, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais — seems patched together, consisting of a series of scenes lacking a strong narrative hook.

Silverstone is a cutie-pie with a likable presence, but she’s still looking for a worthy follow-up to her terrific perf in “Clueless.” Her character here wavers between a karate-kicking spitfire who beats up a couple of men and a teen who whimpers and pouts when she doesn’t get her way. The first line of the film, in voiceover, is “All I ever wanted was a father who loved me,” but by the end all she wants is a cute guy who loves her. Apparently this is her character’s growth.

Silverstone has the only substantial female role in the film, though Sally Kirkland shows up for an extended cameo as a waitress wearing a Willie’s Wieners T-shirt.

Turturro plays a hotheaded goon, and Walken, in oddly auburn-orange hair, does his patented bit as a cool customer whose deadpan humor belies the heart of a killer. Both have played these roles before, but they’re still exceedingly enjoyable.

The most interesting acting comes from Del Toro, an offbeat leading man whose oddball line readings and quirky charm give the film most of its energy.

Jean Yves Escoffier’s lensing is terrific, as is John Lurie’s score; the songs, including works by the Dave Matthews Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Wallflowers and Carmen McRae, are well chosen.

Excess Baggage


A Sony Pictures Entertainment release from Columbia Pictures of a First Kiss production. Produced by Bill Borden, Carolyn Kessler. Co-producer, B. Casey Grant. Directed by Marco Brambilla. Screenplay, Max D. Adams, Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais; story, Adams.


Camera (Technicolor), Jean Yves Escoffier; editor, Stephen Rivkin; music, John Lurie; music supervision, Anita Camarata; production design, Missy Stewart; art direction, Richard Hudolin; set decoration, Elizabeth Wilcox; costume design, Beatrix Aruna Pasztor; sound (Dolby/SDDS), Eric J. Batut; stunt coordinator, Betty Thomas; assistant director, Richard Cowan; casting, Mike Fenton, Allison Cowitt. Reviewed at Beverly Connection, L.A., Aug. 27, 1997. Rating: PG-13. Running time: 98 MIN.


Emily - Alicia Silverstone
Vincent - Benicio Del Toro
Ray - Christopher Walken
Alexander - Jack Thompson
Greg - Harry Connick Jr.
Stick - Nicholas Turturro
Gus - Michael Bowen
Detective Sims - Robert Wisden
Detective Barnaby - Leland Orser
Louise - Sally Kirkland
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