People Staff
August 03, 1987 12:00 PM

MAID TO ORDER

Most modern films that try to generate romance and sentiment get stuck in the craw long before they’re in any position to warm the heart. This fantasy comedy is an exception: a frothy concoction that’s both sweet and refreshing. Ally Sheedy plays a shiftless Beverly Hills brat who is spoiled from her bejeweled earrings right down to the gas pedal of her Mercedes. Tom (Top Gun) Skerritt is her widowed father, so out of patience he finally wishes Sheedy right out of existence. Beverly D’Angelo, a latter-day fairy godmother who says things like “Get real,” obliges him, and Sheedy suddenly finds that her father doesn’t even recognize her. Worse, her credit cards have disappeared. So she has to take a job as a maid at someone else’s mansion. It’s owned by an endearingly sleazy pop music agent, played delightfully by the late Dick Shawn. His wife is Valerie Perrine, a shrewd sort of bimbo who loves shatteringly loud outfits. Never has so much chest been squeezed into so little bodice. Michael (Slap Shot) Ontkean, that rare hunk with a sense of humor, provides the love interest as Shawn’s chauffeur. The real surprise of the movie is Merry Clayton, a gospel-R&B singer who won a Grammy as the Acid Queen on The Who’s Tommy LP. As the Shawn-Perrine household’s cook, she exudes integrity as she helps transform Sheedy from brat to cutie pie—this is hard core shmaltz, remember. Perry and Randy Howze, two Washington, D.C.-bred sisters, wrote the film with director Amy Jones, who will soon be able to buy and burn all existing prints of her first feature, Slumber Party Massacre. Their script is stronger on situation than dialogue. Jones does, however, have an eye for enticing scene-setting and stays out of her actors’ way. These days, when so many films are designed to scare, gross out, lecture, provide catharsis for or pander to audiences, it’s a joyful relief to have a movie to just plain flat-out like. (PG)

LAW OF DESIRE

Here’s the shamelessly funny scandal of the current foreign film scene: a Spanish sizzler from writer-director Pedro Almodóvar. On the basis of this film and his last—What Have I Done To Deserve This?—Almodóvar proves himself a one-man Marx Brothers of erotica. His main character, Pablo, played by Eusebio Poncela, is a Madrid film director enraptured by a working-class youth (Miguel Molina) who cannot decide whether homosexuality suits him. Pablo’s actress sister, done with the vigor of a young Anna Magnani by the dazzling Carmen Maura, has it tougher. Her lesbian lover has walked out, leaving her young daughter in Maura’s charge. Pablo’s buoyant sis takes on the role of mother like her greatest acting challenge, which in a way it is. Originally, she was Pablo’s brother. She—then a he—had a sex change at her depraved father’s demand. When Dad left her soon after, she swore off men. Pablo, good brother that he is, wants only to help his sibling find Mr. or Ms. Right. But first he must ward off a senator’s son whose lustful obsession is growing violent. Almodóvar makes light of his characters’ sexual identities but never of their passions, so it’s hardly a jolt that the film culminates in bloodshed. What does astonish is the way the filmmaker laughs at the human follies committed in the name of love, while giving his wanton fables a surprisingly moralistic sting. Things never got this hot in Aesop. (In Spanish with English subtitles; not rated)

JAWS THE REVENGE

Steven Spielberg’s original Jaws 12 years ago was so scary it actually kept people out of the water. About the only thing this amateurish third sequel will keep people out of is movie theaters. Under director Joseph (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) Sargent, the original concept has degenerated into a waterlogged slasher picture. When the movie begins, the Long Island sheriff who, in the form of Roy Scheider, battled the great white shark in the original (and first sequel) has died of a heart attack. Lorraine Gary, who played Scheider’s wife both times, gets to fry the big guy this time. When one of her sons is snatched off a boat and devoured, Gary decides the shark has a grudge against her family. Her other son, Lance (The Last Star-fighter) Guest, a marine biologist, invites her to the Bahamas, where he lives and where, he tells her, great whites never go. As it turns out, even great whites know it’s better in the Bahamas. Guest seems more concerned, however, with a land shark, Michael Caine, who is circling in on his mother. It’s only one of the film’s flaws that Guest’s jealousy of Caine is never resolved. After her granddaughter almost becomes a shark snack, Gary sets sail alone to meet the finny villain face to fish. That insult to plausibility is bad enough, but the confrontation abruptly ends just as it gets going, with Sargent desperately inserting footage of Scheider killing the shark in the first film. For all the chomping, this movie has precious little bite. (PG-13)

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