November 26, 1984 12:00 PM

You know something’s wrong with a coming-of-age comedy when you’d rather see the teenage hero with the prostitute who propositions him than with the love he pines for. In this boy-meets-older-woman brief encounter, a gawky 16-year-old, Jon Cryer, becomes infatuated with a down-on-her-luck, 22-year-old club singer, Demi (General Hospital) Moore. But given the unpleasantness of their topsy-turvy affair, the reasons for it are no small mystery. As played by Moore, this songstress is an unlikeable cross between Tovah Feldshuh and Cyndi Lauper. Strident, selfish and self-pitying, she lives in a highly decorated but incredibly cluttered loft, wears mismatched antique clothes and bamboozles everyone. As with certain Goldie Hawn clunkers, this script considers kookiness an aphrodisiac. The more oddball and abrasive Moore is, the further in love with her Cryer falls. In the tradition of May-December movie romances, No Small Affair represents de-evolution. The movie caresses all the clichés that Risky Business avoided: piranha women, passive guys, horny older brothers out of Philip Roth fiction and caricature moms. Although Cryer’s innocent-puppy demeanor works against the offensiveness of the proceedings, director Jerry Schatzberg has either encouraged or permitted Cryer to ape Matthew Broderick, who was once signed for the role. The bittersweet conclusion of this affair is intended to suggest that this hapless hero has received an adult education. Instead, you think what he needs is a remedial lesson in romance. (R)

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