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The Birdcage (1996)
Nathan Lane should be tarred and feathered
An appallingly annoying film with none of the charm of the original. Nathan Lane has never been hammier (and that's saying a lot) or more gratingly offensive than in his portrayal of the transvestite Albert. It's the kind of lisping, mincing stereotype that I thought went out of style somewhere around the time "Boys in the Band" came out (so to speak). Stepping gingerly around whatever scenery hasn't already been devoured by Lane, Robin Williams turns in a surprisingly sensitive and appealing performance - which only makes Lane's seem all the more ludicrous in comparison. One cannot help but question what Williams' character ever saw in Lane's, and why he hadn't just stayed with ex-wife Christine Baranski - she's by far the more butch of the two.
The Prince of Tides (1991)
Tides doesn't make much of a splash
The most accomplished (and lauded) of La Streisand's three directorial efforts is, in many ways, her least enjoyable. "Yentl" was, of course, redeemed by its lush score and remarkable singing, while "The Mirror Has Two Faces", proved unintentionally hilarious for finally and fully exposing just how out-of-control Her ego really has become. Without the singing (in fact, Streisand intentionally uses an instrumental version of the movie's theme song instead of the soundtrack's vocal one so as not to "detract from the film's message") and with her ego still almost in check, "Tides" falls kind of flat. While her acting is acceptable, she is almost as miscast in her portrayal of a psychiatrist as is her (real-life and rather slight) son Jason as an aspiring football player. Much of the problem stems from the fact that Streisand has become so self-conscious about her looks that she must constantly "pose" in only the most flattering angles (from the left, as everyone - especially Rosie O'Donnell - knows by now) and seems incapable of immersing herself enough in a role to put vanity aside once in a while. (For God's sake, Barbra, have the mole removed and show us the right side of your face, already). Nolte is actually quite good - his (deservedly) Oscar-nominated performance goes a long way toward redeeming this film. And while Jeroen Krabbe's role as Streisand's wayward husband is rather thanklessly one-note, most of the supporting players are fine - particularly Blythe Danner and a surprisingly restrained George Carlin. Nevertheless, one cannot help but wonder just how much better this film - and Streisand - would have been had someone else been allowed to call the shots.
The Evening Star (1996)
Did the studio owe Shirley MacLaine a favor?
Evening Star is a pointless return to the tragi-comic life of Aurora Greenway, heroine of the vastly-superior "Terms of Endearment." Sequel lacks the smartly realistic writing of the original, and is full of hokey lines such as "I remember hugs... mom was big on hugs," in a failed attempt to channel some of the rich characterization of the original. Much of the acting is quite good - MacLaine is, as usual, eminently watchable, Juliette Lewis does another of her typically strong turns, and never has Marion Ross been given a better opportunity to demonstrate her surprising range. Still, credible acting and an 11th hour appearance of (an embarrassed-looking) Jack Nicholson can only do so much for this contrived mess, and one cannot help but wonder why they couldn't leave well enough alone.