October 05, 1981 12:00 PM

At the end of this movie, there is a colossal car crash that pretty much sums up the preceding 100 minutes: noisy, messy and not nearly as funny as it was meant to be. British director John Schlesinger, who has made such good films about Americans as Midnight Cowboy and Yanks, tackles the subject again, using that most American of art forms—the “road” picture. Structured in vignettes like Nashville, the screenplay follows an unconnected cast of characters as they converge on the tiny town of Ticlaw, Fla. The citizens of Ticlaw are ticked off because they didn’t get an exit off the new interstate, and they go to great lengths-like painting the town pink and offering free gas-to lure the tourist trade. Schlesinger’s eye is sharp, but he is as subtle as a jackhammer. Though it’s meant to be a comedy, the film is so aggressively strident that it’s not much fun. In a huge cast, Beverly (Coal Miner’s Daughter) D’Angelo stands out as a man-crazy waitress, who feels that “the International House of Pancakes is the one consistent thing in my life.” So does Daniel Stern, who played Cyril in Breaking Away, as a spaced-out hitchhiker. In the midst of all this motor madness, there is one startling oasis: a serene, sensuous moment when a wavering young nun goes swimming in a deserted motel pool. This scene ought to be sent to a different movie. So should you. (PG)

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