August 01, 1988 12:00 PM

Adapted from Thornton Wilder’s last novel, this dreary movie failure is too sad to dwell on. Theophilus North, played by Anthony (Top Gun) Edwards, is a philosophical young tutor of the rich in Newport, R.I., circa 1926. But the citizens think North’s real gift lies in his body’s ability to conduct jolts of static electricity. After his allegedly magic touch cures the migraines of Mary Stuart Masterson and the incontinence (yup, that’s what the man said) of shut-in Robert Mitchum, North is mistaken for a healer and must meet his fate in court. Wilder’s novel was too sentimental by half. But this cloying film version has the effect of making a viewer feel buried in cotton candy. Whether North is dispensing advice to a lovelorn Virginia Madsen, waxing poetic over heiress Anjelica Huston or trading aphorisms with the servants in Lauren Bacall’s boarding house, he quickly becomes an insufferable bore. Ditto the movie. This is sad for several reasons. The late John Huston had collaborated on the script and had meant to play the Mitchum role for a new director, his son Danny, 26. When his father died during shooting, Danny continued on as a labor of love. His devotion is admirable; his movie—an indigestible bowl of curdled whimsy—is not. Missing is the mature intelligence that animated last year’s superb film version of James Joyce’s The Dead—directed by John, starring Anjelica and adapted by another Huston son, Tony. Look for Mr. North to soon be heading south. (PG)

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