January 25, 1999 12:00 PM

Val Kilmer, Mira Sorvino, Kelly McGillis, Nathan Lane

At First Sight is a sluggish, obvious romantic drama, but it has an upside: Blind men are going to get a lot of dates thanks to this movie. That’s because the blind masseur played by Kilmer is such a swell guy that he makes his disability seem, at least initially, as desirable a male attribute as picking up his own dirty socks.

Kilmer’s character, blind since 3, works at a spa in rural New York. When Sorvino, a stressed-out Manhattan architect, discovers his magic fingers and sweet romantic ways (he takes her skating), love follows. She convinces him to have an operation to restore his sight (the film is loosely based on a true story written by Oliver Sacks, an author and physician), but Kilmer soon finds that the vision thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sight briefly comes to life as it examines the difficulties of a blind man adjusting to sight and introduces Lane as a wise-guy therapist, but soon lapses back into treacle.

Kilmer sounds inexplicably like a surfer dude exiled to chilly climes. Sorvino alternates between tremulous and chipper, neither one a particularly effective acting choice. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Seeing isn’t believing

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