Latest James Bond movie has that Midas touch. `A View to A Kill' sticks to `Goldfinger' formula

REMEMBER when James Bond saved us from Goldfinger, who had a wicked scheme for knocking over Fort Knox and capturing the world economy? If so, the new Bond opus will have a familiar ring. True, mere gold is beneath the notice of Zorin, our hero's latest adversary. But he's as greedy for wealth and power as Goldfinger ever was. This being the '80s, his target is Silicon Valley, overflowing with precious microchips. If trusty Agent 007 doesn't get there in time, Zorin plans to wipe out the place and replace it with an evil empire of his own.

The likeness between ``A View to a Kill'' and the vintage ``Goldfinger'' tells a lot about the Bond series, which has lived a long life by sticking to an ultraconservative formula. The films always keep a strict timetable, from zap-zap opening and soft-core credits to explosive finale and comic punch line. Also predictable are the nasty fixations of the bad guys, who usually have a clear Russian connection, even when they're capitalists run amok like Zorin.

As for Bond, his paper-thin personality and bemused expression are so unchanging that it doesn't matter who plays him, be it the bygone Sean Connery or the current Roger Moore -- who has taken to popping his eyes during the dialogue scenes, perhaps as a strategem for staying awake.

``A View to a Kill'' plods along dutifully, observing the rules of the series with dull consistency. The best scenes involve Zorin, whose pedigree is impeccably sinister even by Bond standards: He's a renegade KGB agent whose high IQ and psychotic personality were concocted by a mad Nazi doctor.

Christopher Walken has some zesty fun with this nonsense, bringing the movie alive now and then. His henchperson is played by Grace Jones, got up like a witch in a Disney cartoon. Nobody else makes much impression, but fans of the Golden Gate Bridge should enjoy the climax, which finds the main characters teetering high over photogenic San Francisco Bay.

When the classic version of ``Brewster's Millions'' came out in 1945, the hero had to spend $1 million -- in two months, with no assets to show for it -- to claim an inheritance. The new ``Brewster's Millions'' raises the ante to $30 million in 30 days. Such are the ravages of inflation, and of Hollywood's hyped-up mentality, which can't rest until every amusing idea has been stretched to the bursting point.

A sturdy and durable story, ``Brewster's Millions'' has been made and remade a number of times -- silently in 1914 and 1921, musically in 1935, and in England (under another title) in 1961. The 1945 edition featured Dennis O'Keefe and Eddie (Rochester) Anderson under director Allan Dwan, a reputable auteur. Along with the quiz-show comedy ``Champagne for Caesar,'' it's an old TV favorite of mine, steering cleverly between broad farce and barbed satire aimed at the American way of spending.

The new ``Brewster's Millions,'' starring Richard Pryor, is more frantic and less funny than it ought to be. The basic idea is still promising: a young man squared off against an enormous pile of dollars, and forbidden to let on why he's throwing his fortune away. But that premise is expected to carry the movie all by itself, propped up by noise and bustle alone. While energy is important to a physical comedy like this, it's no substitute for style and inspiration.

Pryor has a few sharp moments as the main character, but it's plain by now that his talent (more than Eddie Murphy's) finds its main expression in self-revealing monologue shows, not character and role interpretations. In the second-banana spot, John Candy once again shows generous hints -- but only hints -- of major talent. Other supporting roles are nicely handled by Lonette McKee and Tovah Feldshuh, among others. The director was Walter Hill, an action specialist who should think long and hard before making his next plunge into comedy.

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