April 28, 1997 12:00 PM

Joe Pesci, Andy Comeau, Kristy Swanson, George Hamilton, Dyan Cannon

A79-cent plastic luggage tag would have eliminated the need for this piddling comedy. 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag hinges on the moldy premise that a mobster (Pesci) grabs the wrong bag off an airport luggage carousel. The navy blue bag Pesci mistakenly takes is identical to the one he put on the plane except—big “except”—his own bag contained eight severed human heads, each carefully wrapped in plastic to prevent drippage. Pesci is supposed to deliver the heads to a Mr. Big who ordered the hits. The bag that Pesci picks up, however, is crammed with rumpled clothes and gear belonging to a nice young medical student (newcomer Comeau) rendezvousing with his fiancée (Swanson) and her snooty parents (Hamilton and Cannon) for a vacation.

Upon discovering the noggins, a horrified Comeau frantically tries to ditch them, while Pesci busies himself tracking down Comeau and the errant heads. The genuine laughs here (a head sloshing about in a washer and a dream sequence in which the heads serenade Pesci with “Mister Sandman”) are few and far between. Firsttime director Tom Schulman, who also wrote Heads (his previous scripts include Dead Poets Society and What About Bob?), lets his cast mug, screech and otherwise behave as if their shenanigans were uproariously funny. Guess again, guys. Comeau strives to make like Tom Hanks during Hanks’s mid-’80s dumb-comedy period, but comes off more like Steve Guttenberg. Pesci does his now familiar gonzo gangster bit, though he tosses in a quick Jerry Lewis impression, braying a la Jerry, “Laay-dee, laay-dee.” That at least ought to guarantee wide distribution in France. (R)

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