March 04, 1991 12:00 PM

Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, John Candy

After a few minutes, it’s clear that this comedy is not enigmatic—just hopelessly confused. The mind drifts off to counting the commercial plugs and undeleted expletives or noticing how many people leave the theater because they have thought of something that’s more fun to do—mucking out the rain gutters, maybe, or washing some lettuce.

The credits say the film was directed by Aykroyd, but it doesn’t seem to have been directed so much as allowed to happen.

Chase and Moore play New Yorkers who are driving to Atlantic City when they wander off the New Jersey Turnpike and into a bizarre little speed-trap town. There they encounter Candy in two roles: as a quiet police chief and an even quieter—mute, in fact-woman with marriage on her mind.

Aykroyd, as the town’s justice of the peace, is made up in a ghastly mask that looks like congealed oatmeal. He has a wooden leg and a false, penis-shape nose that covers a bloody, gaping hole in his face. So much for the funny part.

Aykroyd is also supposed to be trapping and killing people he deems undesirables, running them through a gizmo called Mister Boncstripper. And to give him credit—which may not be necessary since he gave himself two roles and the screenplay in addition to the directing job—Aykroyd does seem morbidly fascinating. He’s full of fuss and bluster, acting as if his part were full of wit or pathos or something. (It’s all unhappily reminiscent of his performance in the similarly misguided Dr. Detroit.)

The movie is just weird though. Chase seems to be going through the motions, and none too energetically. So does Moore, who also looks so pale as to seem anemic, especially next to Chase, whose skin looks to be the shade of a burnt sienna crayon.

Such amusement as there is comes mostly from Candy’s drag performance and his lascivious leers at Chase. There’s not a shred of help from the supporting cast, particularly the dull Taylor (Easy Money) Negron and stage actress Bertila Damas, as a Brazilian couple riding with Chase and Moore, or comedian Valri Bromfield, overacting embarrassingly as a police deputy.

Aykroyd’s script runs to banal lines in which people describe what they’ve done. “I was just trying to get away from you,” Chase tells Aykroyd after Candy stops him from running away, “and I ran into her.”

The film was originally titled Valkenvania—for the name of the odd town. Its release was also delayed, but not nearly long enough. (PG-13)

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