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Can't Carry It Off

On the basis of having played a lovably meddlesome Beverly Hills teenager in Clueless and Batgirl in the latest McSequel of the dismal Batman series, young Alicia Silverstone hasn't quite hit full stride. There may not be much time, but she's trying. Excess Baggage looks very much like an attempt by her handlers at a breakout movie. It might fall a little short.

Can you, like, relate? Emily T. Hope is a game-playing, smart-mouthed Seattle teenager who's suffering from emotional neglect. Her shady industrialist father (Jack Thompson) doesn't care squat about her, so to get his attention, Emily fakes her own kidnapping, demands a million-dollar ransom and locks herself in the trunk of her green BMW.

Just one catch. Before Dad can come to the rescue and finally prove he loves her, a professional car thief named Vincent (Benicio del Toro) makes off with her ride and, unbeknownst to him, her.

The ensuing frenzies involve half a dozen bumbling cops, a couple of late-arriving tough guys (who really do go in for kidnapping) and Emily's ultra-cool Uncle Ray (Christopher Walken), who has everything her miscreant of a father lacks: bravado, real feeling and a .357 Magnum two feet long. There's also Vincent the car thief, a lad of the streets and sufficiently love-starved himself that the kidnapping-that-wasn't soon turns into a case of romance on the run.

The intrigue that emanates from Silverstone (for now) is her capacity for bridging the unfulfilled yearnings of childhood and maturity: Here she gives us a girlish insecurity, there an insouciant tug on a quart of Jack Daniel's. She's the unfinished woman-child in excelsis--for another movie or two, anyway. Meanwhile, del Toro's collection of mumbles and mannerisms--the same stuff he trotted out in The Usual Suspects and The Fan--continue to remind us that he's just come down from Stella Adler's atelier, hot to be Marlon De Niro. For acting-effect overload, there's nothing quite like the scenes in which del Toro and Walken, partners now in extricating Silverstone from the movie's major quandaries, try out their shticks on one another. No wonder they called this Excess Baggage.

Alas, Alicia. I don't know how you'll react, but I wanted so much to like her here, to fall for her spell, that I kept making, well, allowances. This kid has something special--that aching 'twixt and 'tween thing--and before she blossoms into authentic womanhood, it would be lovely to see it properly captured by a medium that, as Jimmy Stewart used to say, gives us little pieces of time. Muddled by three screenwriters (Max D. Adams and Dick Clement, later joined by Ian La Frenais) and directed by Marco Brambilla, whose comic timing is anything but perfect, this isn't quite the movie that seizes the day. Somebody better hurry.

--Gallo

Excess Baggage.
Screenplay by Max D. Adams and Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais. Directed by Marco Brambilla. With Alicia Silverstone, Benicio Del Toro, Christopher Walken and Jack Thompson.

 
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