November 05, 1990 12:00 PM

Jim Belushi, Linda Hamilton

How much you enjoy this movie will depend on how much tolerance you have for very long, mildly tasteless, only tangentially funny jokes told by people you like.

Belushi might be better off in jokey, William Bendix second-banana roles than in lead parts. He has a natural, muttish quality though. You like him without even thinking about it.

Here he plays a low-level executive at a sporting goods company. Married to Hamilton, he’s starting to feel mediocre and is headed for a mid-life crisis when he meets Michael Caine, who has otherworldly powers he uses to change a crucial moment in Belushi’s life.

That changes everything else too, and Belushi finds himself married to the boss’s daughter, Rene (Major League) Russo. He also finds himself maligned by his employees as a tyrant. Even his old best friend, played by Saturday Night Livens Jon Lovitz, avoids him. (Lovitz’s character is a milquetoast, played in such a subdued fashion that the comedian is almost unrecognizable.)

It’s unsettling that Belushi, while he remembers being married to Hamilton and still loves her, is sleeping with Russo as well as with his secretary. Such a penchant for infidelity would help build a character in a serious movie, but this is a comedy that depends a lot more on Belushi’s attracting sympathy than it does on his credibility.

First-time director James Orr and his co-writer Jim Cruickshank (he and Orr wrote Three Men and a Baby) don’t give Belushi much support, stranding him in a moralizing, grass-is-always-greener script only rarely relieved by anything like wit. It’s supposed to be a big joke, for example, when Belushi, finding himself with a butler in his new life, baffles the man by asking him for a “brewski.” Lovitz has a line—”Technically we should be cutting back on production levels, not keeping them up”—that sounds like a buildup to a joke but is all too straight and solemnly delivered.

Belushi salvages something from a birthday party where his employees give him such gifts as a block of cheese: When someone tells him what it is. he misunderstands and says, “Thank you, Mr. Stilton.” Credit fans will note that the cast includes SPORTS ILLUSTRATED swimsuit model Kathy Ireland and Corbin Bernsen’s brother, Collin, in bit parts.

Those are the kinds of mild pleasures this film offers. It’s an inadvertent example of the moral it preaches: Sometimes when you aspire to a wonderful life, you should be satisfied with a life of Riley. (PG-13)

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