August 15, 1988 12:00 PM

A cute psychic. That, at least, is a new one. Rock singer Cyndi Lauper, in her film debut, plays New York beautician Sylvia Pickel. The second syllable of her last name is pronounced “elle.” Isn’t that precious? Ever since Ms. Pickel suffered a fall as a child, she has been in contact with a spirit guide named Louise, whose main job seems to be man-hunting for her mistress. Louise can pick horses at Santa Anita, but she can’t pick the right guy. Lovers keep dumping Lauper, a Kewpie doll with a hooker wardrobe and a heart with more bruises than Sweet Charity’s. At a psychic institute run by smarmy Julian (A Room with a View) Sands, Lauper meets Jeff (The Fly) Goldblum, a museum curator and psychometrist. The latter means he can touch an object and tell where it’s been. The gift comes in handy on archaeological digs, less so with his fiancée (the striking singer-actress Karen Akers), whose panties, Goldblum deduces, have been fondled by an entire football team. Goldblum is not entranced by Lauper. He figures her cultural pursuits run along the lines of “How high should I comb my hair today?” But when Peter Falk gets them involved in an expedition to Ecuador to find his missing son (he’s really after Incan treasure), the odd couple is tossed together in an exotic setting for fun, adventure and romance. Bad toss. Except for a few special effects raided from Spielberg’s Lost Ark and Cyndi’s chanting an Incan language in a trance, nothing much happens. Lauper bats her eyes, Goldblum bugs his (residual mannerisms from The Fly, perhaps?). Tracey Ullman and Dan Aykroyd, the natural clowns originally set to co-star, might have compensated for the lack of inventiveness in the screenplay by the Splash team of Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. Lauper and Goldblum do not. He’s mopey; she’s dopey. That’s it. At least Lauper is less shrill than her rock peer Madonna, who played a similar role in the execrable Who’s That Girl. Director Ken Kwapis, whose only previous feature was the Sesame Street film Follow That Bird, keeps his stars Muppet cute. Did he really think the Lauper-Goldblum mismatch would strike comic and sexual sparks? “I knew that there was something so wrong about it that it had to work,” Kwapis said recently. This is not a man who should be making movies about psychics. (PG)

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