September 08, 1986 12:00 PM

The title character of this disarming Australian comedy, deftly played by Colin Friels, is a slow-witted Melbourne tram builder. He also happens to be a mechanical genius. He’s fired for using spare parts to make a personal trolley car, so he’s forced to take in a boarder. Enter John (Careful He Might Hear You) Hargreaves, as a gruff, bumbling ex-con, and stage actress Lindy Davies, as Hargreaves’ girlfriend. When Hargreaves discovers the devious possibilities of Friels’ innocent inventiveness, the three go from unlikely roommates to even less likely partners-in-crime. Davies’ earthiness is a perfect complement to the high-strung Hargreaves and the naive Friels, as she is alternately lover, teacher and mother hen. Hargreaves is sweetly smarmy, and Friels is wonderful, barely concealing a knowing grin behind his childlike demeanor. His gadgetry, which runs from a car that splits in half to bank-robbing robot ashtrays, is clever, yet it never steals the film. Written by David Parker and directed by his wife, Nadia Tass—the couple mortgaged their home to help raise production money—Malcolm is a charming tale replete with pointed humor. (PG-13)

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