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ROXANNE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019

EDITOR’S NOTE: For me, ‘Roxanne’ is still amusing but some aspects have not aged particularly well. Still, I gave it a good review 30-plus years ago, and there are fans of Steve Martin out there that love whatever he does, so Mill Creek has given the film a Blu-ray upgrade at a budget price (on its ‘Retro VHS Style’ discs with a box designed to give the appearance of an old VHS tape). Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on June 19, 1987.

“Roxanne” — written and produced by Steve Martin — is his modern-day comic adaptation of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” with Martin himself wearing the ridiculously long nose.

Here, the modern Cyrano is C.D. Bales, fire chief in a small ski town in the mountains of Washington state. Bales is funny, intelligent and friendly, but he is completely intolerant of people poking fun at his nose.

Sound familiar?

In this version, Cyrano’s swordplay is handled with a tennis racket, the soliloquy where he makes up clever, funny insults about his won nose is modernized and played in a local bar, and his Roxanne (Daryl Hannah) is an astronomer looking for a new comet.

      

As in the original, she is attracted to another, in this case a fireman named Chris (Rick Rossovich). Even though Chris is such a bumbler he doesn’t know the difference between astronomy and astrology, Roxanne wants to meet him and, oblivious to C.D.’s love for her, asks him to set it up.

Chris is so nervous about Roxanne that he gets nauseous in her presence, so C.D. ends up writing a love letter for him, and he even delivers a verbal message of love hiding in the trees beneath her window.

“Roxanne” is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the original play by Edmond Rostand, and Martin has managed to very cleverly transpose most of the best elements form 17th-century Paris to the 20th-century American northwest.

It doesn’t all work as well as Martin obviously intended, with some of the more rhapsodic dialogue seeming a bit out of place. And I wish Martin had opted for a bit less vulgarity — there’s not a lot but he couldn’t resist a few obvious, cheap jokes.

And you may wonder — despite a quick one-liner about his hating the word “rhinoplasty” — why Bales, or his parents for that matter, never used plastic surgery to remove the extreme length of his nose.

      

For the most part, however, it comes together quite well, and Martin proves himself to be a dapper and charming romantic lead — despite the protruding proboscis. He’s witty, charming and frequently hilarious, whether putting down a drunk who has insulted him or wooing the woman he loves. And his own script here is one of the most inventive he’s yet used on the silver screen.

Despite her beauty and screen presence, Daryl Hannah isn’t a very convincing astronomer, and the supporting players — chiefly Shelley Duvall as Martin’s best friend, Fred Willard as the goofball mayor and Michael J. Pollard heading a Keystone Kops brigade of firefighters — are sorely underused.

But the key to what makes “Roxanne” work is its gentleness. And in addition to Martin’s script, director Fred Schepisi (whose previous work directing such films as “Plenty” and “Iceman” would hardly seem to have indicated it) must get credit for the loving, gentle romantic nature of the comedy here. This is a style of humor that is all too often avoided in today’s fast-and-furious, insult-comedy climate. And it is most welcome.

“Roxanne,” rated PG for profanity, some fleeting nudity, implied sex, some violence and a few vulgarities, is actually very, very sweet. And that’s meant as the highest of compliments.