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Fatal Instinct

The filmmakers have provided critics ample artillery by prominently featuring a skunk in this thuddingly flat spoof of erotic thrillers. Considering the lukewarm reception for other recent parodies -- from "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" to "Loaded Weapon" and the second "Hot Shots!"-- the skunk should generate the only kind of B.O. response this MGM release will muster.

The filmmakers have provided critics ample artillery by prominently featuring a skunk in this thuddingly flat spoof of erotic thrillers. Considering the lukewarm reception for other recent parodies — from “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” to “Loaded Weapon” and the second “Hot Shots!”– the skunk should generate the only kind of B.O. response this MGM release will muster.

Director Carl Reiner and writer David O’Malley simply cast their nets too far and wide in this grating sendup, which proves crude without being clever or, for that matter, even remotely funny.

The story includes not just passing shots but ongoing spoofs of “Basic Instinct,” “Fatal Attraction,” “Body Heat,” “Sleeping With the Enemy” and “Cape Fear.” What’s lacking is any wit or subtlety; the filmmakers think it’s enough that the audience recognizes the movies being lampooned.

Armand Assante gets the thankless job of playing Ned Ravine, a cop and lawyer who busts bad guys and then defends them in court. (If the name sounds familiar, William Hurt’s moniker in “Body Heat” was Ned Racine.)

A mysterious woman with a penchant for ice picks (Sean Young) walks into Ned’s life, while his wife and her lover (Kate Nelligan and Christopher McDonald) plot Ned’s death, his secretary (Sherilynn Fenn) dreads the return of her psychotic husband, and convict Max Shady (James Remar) gets out of prison hellbent on revenge against Ned.

O’Malley tries to pack too much into the screenplay, and the few gags of any merit (such as Young’s tendency to catch gum, toilet paper and other objects on her high heels, or having saxophonist Clarence Clemons plodding through the background playing the bluesy score) are pounded flat through repetition.

The same could be said of the erotic-thriller and movie-parody genres in general, which both seem more than a little tired.

After some reasonably clever collaborations with Steve Martin, Reiner doesn’t seem to have his heart in this effort, and with the exception of Young, who plays her sex-kitten role to the hilt, neither does the cast.

Fenn, a classic femme fatale, is sparingly used, while Assante gamely endures his role without much to show for it, except perhaps demonstrating that he looks surprisingly good in high heels.

Tech credits painstakingly recreate aspects of the thriller genre, particularly Richard Gibbs’ score and Albert Wolsky’s costumes. Too bad the same care wasn’t put into saving what’s called a “killer comedy” in MGM’s ad campaign from its suicidal tendencies.

Fatal Instinct

  • Production: A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release of a Jacobs/Gardner production. Produced by Katie Jacobs, Pierce Gardner. Executive producer, Pieter Jan Brugge. Directed by Carl Reiner. Screenplay, David O'Malley.
  • Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Gabriel Beristain; editors, Bud Molin, Stephen Myers; music, Richard Gibbs; production design, Sandy Veneziano; art direction, Daniel Maltese; set decoration, Chris A. Butler; costume design, Albert Wolsky; sound (Dolby), Peter Hliddal; assistant director, Marty Ewing; second unit director, M. James Arnett; casting, Renee Rousselot. Reviewed at the Mann Westwood theater, L.A., Oct. 6, 1993. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 88 min.
  • With: Ned Ravine - Armand Assante<br> Laura - Sherilynn Fenn<br> Lana Ravine - Kate Nelligan<br> Lola Cain - Sean Young<br> Frank Kelbo - Christopher McDonald<br> Max Shady - James Remar<br> Judge Skanky - Tony Randall<br>
  • Music By: