March 01, 1993 12:00 PM

Christian Slater, Marisa Tomei

Thank you, all concerned, for trying to make a sweet, affecting little movie about young people—just your ordinary, working-class, insufficiently shampooed young people—transformed by love. We need movies like that. We really do. But the farther along one goes with this romance about a diner waitress (Tomei) and an enigmatic busboy (Slater), the more it seems to have abandoned real life—specifically, Minneapolis—altogether. Slater and Tomei might as well loosen their apron strings and take to the sky on winged horses…exchange goblets filled with wine…soar past waterfalls and over green hills toward a burning sun.

My imagery here was inspired by Fantasia’s schlocky “Pastoral Symphony” episode, which includes a little cupid thrusting forth a soft pink derriere shaped like a heart. “Heart” is very much the issue here: Slater’s is defective, and not likely to last the movie. Also, he is painfully shy, and sensitive, and often mute. This is because he grew up, frail and lonely, in an orphanage, where a certain Mother Camilla would soothe him by playing an album of piano music that sounds like Chopin sloshed on cough syrup.

What we have here, then, is a young man who is a combination of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mowgli the jungle boy. Get this: Slater thinks the heart is the actual seat of human emotion, which is why he’s reluctant to get a heart transplant! Or this: He catches the puck, in triumphant slow-mo, at the first hockey game he ever attends. It is fascinating to watch Slater, a likable enough actor, trying to pretend he has never watched hockey. He narrows his already small eyes in amazement, as if the Ark of the Covenant had just been rolled out onto the ice. Tomei, such a kick as a gum-chewing moll in My Cousin Vinny, seems to be doing an uncanny Rosanna Arquette impersonation. Meanwhile, back on our planet, the blessedly down-to-earth Rosie Perez plays another waitress in the diner. Untamed Heart is recommended for inordinately sensitive teenagers everywhere. (PG-13)

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