August 15, 1988 12:00 PM

If cute could kill, pigtailed Pippi could bring nations to their knees. Should a misguided youth of your acquaintance ask to be taken to this movie, talk the tyke out of it. Plead migraine, toothache, eyestrain, indigestion or mental numbness—afflictions awaiting you if you do attend. Swedish novelist Astrid Lindgren may have sold 5 million of her Pippi books in the U.S. alone, but I’ll never read one. Not now. My fear is that images of the savagely cute little girl from the film will return to invade my dreams. The hapless Tami Erin, a 13-year-old from New Jersey, won the Pippi role over 8,000 contenders. Presumably the others hadn’t mastered her knack for smiling relentlessly. Even though Pippi’s mother is dead (she talks to her daughter through the clouds) and her sailor father (John Schuck) shipwrecked, the perky Pippster will not see the dark side. She takes up residence in an old, ramshackle house in a coastal town (the film was shot in Florida), alone except for Mr. Neilson, a monkey, and Alphonso, her pet horse. The kids next door (David Seaman Jr. and Cory Crow) dote on her antics. But their father (Dennis Dugan) and the head of the local orphanage (what pretty pass have you come to, Eileen Brennan, to stoop to this thankless role?) think Pippi a menace. What big poops. So what if irrepressible Pippi lies to adults, instigates fights, plops her head into food and tells kids they can fly. She’s freeeee, she’s magic, she’s the child we all want to be. Like hell. Which is what watching this film is like. Ken (Swiss Family Robinson) Annakin’s writing and directing rival Pippi’s hair for stiffness. What the film lacks in vivacity, it makes up for in volume. Harriet Schock and Misha Segal have written tunes with pounding, repetitive rhythms that crush your skull like jackboots. When last heard, our heroine was shrieking, “Pippi Longstocking will always come out on top.” Not this time, kid. (G)

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