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Nine Months

But it remains easy enough to see the film for what it is -- an exceedingly safe and conven-

But it remains easy enough to see the film for what it is — an exceedingly safe and conven-

tional Chris Columbus comedy, his first since the blockbuster “Mrs. Doubtfire ,” that switches at will from laugh-making to heart-tugging.

Based on a French feature that was successful on its home turf but never made it into U.S. release, Americanized version retains the same basic set of characters but has veered away from the original’s concentration on the comic physical side effects of pregnancy as well as its critique of hospital conditions and medical practice.

Grant stars as consummate yuppie Samuel Faulkner, a breezy young man who’s got it all — red Porsche, San Francisco apartment with a bay view, thriving practice as — ha ha — a child psychiatrist, and a lovely girlfriend of five years, Rebecca Taylor (Julianne Moore).

When Rebecca announces that she’s pregnant, Samuel runs his fancy car off the road from the shock. The news also sends Grant rifling through his repertoire of befuddled reactions, including much rapid eyelid fluttering, slight stammering and panicked expressions camouflaged by polite smiles.

Unable to summon the nerve to tell his beloved he simply doesn’t want the kid , Samuel starts suffering from discarded-mate/praying mantis nightmares. Things don’t get much better when, at their first doctor visit, they draw a newly arrived medic from Russia (a hilariously malapropistic Robin Williams) who has previously treated only animals, or when Rebecca’s new moods force Samuel to face the prospect of life without sex.

When Samuel’s indifference and lack of commitment become too much for her, Rebecca stomps out and moves in with her new best friend, Gail (Joan Cusack), latter’s boorish husband, Marty (Tom Arnold), and their three monster kids.

Left hanging, Samuel momentarily tries to revive his bachelor ways at the encouragement of swinger pal Sean (Jeff Goldblum). But watching a video of his sprout in utero makes Samuel feel like taking “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” to bed rather than a winsome blond babe, and he realizes it’s time to grow up and smell the diapers.

In the scene that could easily provoke some unwanted laughs, Grant’s Samuel comes groveling to a bedridden Rebecca to beg her forgiveness and try to win her back. “I was a disgrace,” he admits, adding, “You had every right to walk out on me.” (A police mug shot of Grant that appeared in the film’s trailer to vast audience amusement is nowhere to be seen in the finished film, nor is his character ever arrested.)

Pic degenerates with a ridiculous slapstick race to the hospital, but rebounds with some delivery room farce in which Williams’ Russian doc reassumes center stage to bring his first baby into the world.

Frantically calling for Anastasia instead of anesthesia, the madcap thesp has a field day putting a comic capper on the film before the expected feel-good wrap-up. Some amusing end-credit real-life snapshots of the pic’s stars as toddlers will send auds out chuckling.

All the film’s humor and sentiments play right into the most commonly held “family values,” so this will hardly be the ticket for anyone looking for something edgy, sophisticated or hip. But heartlanders should eat it up, provided they don’t stay away due to the Grant controversy. If they do see the film, actor’s domestic acceptance will be confirmed and amplified by virtue of his winning ways here.

Amply conveying his character’s squirmy discomfort at the prospect of fatherhood and loss of freedom, Grant does lay on the mugging and facial contortions a bit thick at times, but his debonair manner and appealing personality do a lot to put the film over.

Moore is winsome and just serious enough as his well-matched mate, while Goldblum, Arnold and Cusack supply effective shtick as combination sounding boards and saviors for the pressured leading characters.

Action could be taking place down the block from where “Mrs. Doubtfire” was set. San Francisco is used for its usual scenic value and upscale ambience, and production values are sparkling down the line.

Among the many credited producers, Anne Francois produced and Christopher Lambert exec produced the French original version.

Nine Months

(Comedy -- Color)

Production: A 20th Century Fox release of a 1492 picture. Produced by Anne Francois, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, Michael Barnathan. Executive producers, Joan Bradshaw, Christopher Lambert. #Directed, written by Chris Columbus, based on the film "Neuf Mois," written and directed by Patrick Braoude. Camera (Deluxe color, Panavision widescreen), Donald McAlpine; editor, Raja Gosnell; film editor, Stephen Rivkin; music, Hans Zimmer; production design , Angelo P. Graham; art direction, W. Steven Graham, Garrett Lewis; set design, Richard Berger, Steve Saklad; costume design, Jay Hurley; sound (Dolby SR), Nelson Stoll; associate producer, Paula DuPre'Pesmen; assistant director, Geoff Hansen; casting, Janet Hirshenson, Jane Jenkins. Reviewed at UA Westwood, Los Angeles, July 6, 1995. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 102 min. Samuel Faulkner ... Hugh Grant Rebecca Taylor ... Julianne Moore Marty Dwyer ... Tom Arnold Gail Dwyer ... Joan Cusack Sean Fletcher ... Jeff Goldblum Dr. Kosevich ... Robin Williams Truman ... Joey Simmrin Shannon Dwyer ... Ashley Johnson Lili ... Mia Cottet Nine Months" is an innocuously funny, audience-pleasing comedy with a giant question mark hanging over it in the form of star Hugh Grant. Very much tailored -- and marketed -- around the cuddly charm and boyish good looks of the British actor who hit it big in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and made unwanted headlines just two weeks before the launch of his Hollywood screen debut, this mainstream picture will be the butt of easy jokes before its release and no doubt a few titters from audiences during the early scenes. But probably, for most viewers, the film's broad entertainment value will overtake any morbid curiosity or derisive attitudes they may bring with them. Barring any further unforeseen developments, result should be bright summer B.O. for this intermittently amusing, emotionally predictable Fox release. It's true that the torrent of headlines, gossip and speculation about the Grant case makes it impossible to watch the film in precisely the same frame of mind that would have prevailed had the Hollywood hooker episode never happened. There are a handful of lines and situations, and one scene in particular, that will be endlessly cited and excerpted for their relevance to real life.

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