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** Humorous, uninspired, sad.Skip to next paragraph
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KANSAS CITY (R)
* Two interrelated stories set in Kansas City during the 1930s jazz age. In one, a white man botches his plan to rob a black tourist and enters the clutches of a threatening gangster. In the other, his wife kidnaps the spouse of a presidential adviser, hoping the powerful man's influence can save her husband. Robert Altman's film works less effectively as a drama than as an atmospheric visit to a bygone era, but there's lively music along with punchy acting by Harry Belafonte, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Miranda Richardson. V P
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (PG-13)
** An overweight science teacher slims down with a laboratory potion that turns him into a loud and obnoxious woman-chaser, but he realizes in the end that cultivating your own good qualities is the only honest way to win affection from others. Eddie Murphy has impressive energy, but he needs mountains of makeup and special effects to accomplish what Jerry Lewis did with sheer talent in the original 1963 version of the comedy. Parents should be strongly warned that the movie contains an extremely large amount of bathroom humor and other gratuitous vulgarities. P V
*** Sophomoric, amusing, predictable.
*** John Travolta gives a gentle and touching performance as an ordinary man whose brainpower miraculously zooms after a mysterious light-flash from the sky zaps him one night. John Turteltaub directed the drama, which lapses into medical jargon and new-age clichs near the end, but it scores telling points with its respect for intelligence and optimistic view of human potential. V P S
*** Sentimental, gentle, depressing.
RENDEZVOUS IN PARIS (Not rated)
**** Three enchanting tales of youthful love and courtship, set against an exquisitely filmed backdrop of Parisian parks, cafes, studios, and museums. The delightfully diverting stories were written and directed by Eric Rohmer, a founding member of France's great New Wave group and still one of Europe's most skillful and sensitive filmmakers.
SHE'S THE ONE (R)
* Comedy about the increasingly strained relationship between two brothers with overlapping marital and romantic problems. Written by, directed by, and starring Edward Burns, who makes little improvement over the glib superficiality of "The Brothers McMullen," his previous picture. P V
*** Funny, relationship-oriented, recycled.
SMALL FACES (R)
* The setting is Glasgow in the late '60s, and the main characters are three young brothers who get into various tangles with friends, relatives, and members of a dangerous gang that both tempts and terrifies the youngest member of the family. The drama wanders a bit during its first half but develops real emotional power near the end. Directed by Gillies MacKinnon. V P N
THE SPITFIRE GRILL (PG-13)
** Just released from prison, a young woman moves into a small New England community, takes a job at a modest restaurant, and puts together a new life that helps uplift many of the people around her. The story's traditional moral values are refreshing to encounter in today's movie atmosphere, but the film would be more effective if it seemed less calculated and sentimental. P V
**** Thoughtful, endearing, optimistic.
* The time is 1969, shortly before a police raid on a New York bar gave new force to the movement for gay civil rights; the main characters are homosexual men coping with various personal and romantic problems. The late Nigel Finch directed the drama, which would be more involving if it did a better job of integrating its fictional stories with the political issues raised by the Stonewall incident itself. V S P