If indeed the time is right to send up the thriller genre exemplified by "The Fugitive," the makers of "Wrongfully Accused" certainly don't do it justice. The broad comedy misses its target except by accident, creating more mess than mirth in its pie-flinging approach to comedy.

If indeed the time is right to send up the thriller genre exemplified by “The Fugitive,” the makers of “Wrongfully Accused” certainly don’t get the job done. The broad comedy misses its target — except for some accidental hits — creating more mess than mirth in its pie-flinging approach to comedy. Though the film has already grossed more than $ 5 million in three weeks of release in Germany and Austria, domestic prospects aren’t comparably strong. It’s unlikely to open to major B.O., but will most certainly be sentenced to a brief commercial term prior to heading to video shelves.

The story, at least initially, is a clone of the Harrison Ford movie inspired by the 1960s TV series. Ryan Harrison (Leslie Nielsen) is a superstar classical violinist who wields a near-lethal bow. He becomes romantically involved with the wife (Kelly Le Brock) of his benefactor (Michael York), and quicker than you can say catgut, his cash cow is murdered by mercenaries and Ryan is set up to take the fall. But on the way to death row, the transport bus is involved in an accident with a train and the musician seizes his opportunity to run, planning to track the real culprit — a one-armed, one-legged, one-eyed man — and clear his name.

Doggedly on his trail is Lt. Fergus Falls (Richard Crenna), a bloodhound who’s quick with a malapropism and thoroughly adept at stumbling on, and over, clues.

In the course of the pic’s brisk 85 minutes, writer-director Pat Proft executes a “more is more” policy, assaulting the audience with an “Airplane” full of verbal and visual gags. In addition to the obvious homage, he spoofs such films as “Clear and Present Danger,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Chinatown,” “North by Northwest” and even “Titanic.” But the best gags pop up in the closing credits, which should tell you something about what precedes the finale.

While certainly no less game or sanguine than in the past, Nielsen seems to be suffering the weight of too many films with second-rate material and road-company casts. Only Crenna, who effects an indomitable obliviousness, rises above the staid, stunned acting ensemble.

Proft’s directing debut is unremarkable, a sort of sub–Zucker Brothers’ piece that’s well paced, paper-thin on narrative development and visually serviceable. Some recent spoofs have made the commercial grade, but generally, the genre’s high points — exemplified by Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles” and “Young Frankenstein” — are few and far between.

Wrongfully Accused

Production

A Warner Bros. release of a James G. Robinson presentation of a Morgan Creek production in co-production with Constantin Film. Produced by Robinson, Bernd Eichinger and Pat Proft. Co-producer, Bobby Herbeck. Executive producers, Robert L. Rosen, Gary Barber, Martin Moskowicz. Co-executive producer, Robert Kulzer. Direction and screenplay by Proft, based on characters created by Roy Huggins.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor), Glen MacPerson; editor, James R. Symons; music, Bill Conti; violin advisor, Mark Ferris; production design, Michael Bolton; art director, Sandy Cochrane; set decorator, Lin MacDonald; sound (Dolby Digital), Rob Young; stunt coordinator, Guy Bews; assistant director, Pete Whyte; casting, Karen Rea, Stuart Aikins. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Reviewed at the UA Westwood, Los Angeles, Aug. 4, 1998. Running Time: 85 MINS.

With

Ryan Harrison - Leslie Nielsen Lt. Fergus Falls - Richard Crenna Lauren Goodhue - Kelly Le Brock Cass Lake - Melinda McGraw Hibbing Goodhue - Michael York Dr. Fridley - Sandra Bernhard Sean Laughrea - Aaron Pearl Sgt. Tina Bagley - Leslie Jones Sgt. Orono - Ben Ratner
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