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THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 15, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Warner Archive is offering a Blu-ray upgrade of this wonderful but somewhat neglected comedy-drama, which won a best supporting-actress Oscar for Geena Davis and was nominated as best picture (back when there were only five titles in that category). Here’s my Deseret News review, published on Jan. 12, 1989.

Not having read the book, I came to “The Accidental Tourist” with a fresh perspective and no preconceived notions. And I may have had some wrong expectations, considering that co-writer/director Lawrence Kasdan and his stars, William Hurt and Kathleen Turner, last collaborated for the film noir sizzler “Body Heat.”

“The Accidental Tourist” is not at all like that film, and Kathleen Turner has only a supporting role, albeit a crucial one. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to come up with any other film that resembles this one very closely.

And from the perspective of a cynical movie critic who sees far too many films that resemble each other, that’s all to the good.

“The Accidental Tourist” tackles a very serious subject — the changes people go through when they must endure tragedy. Specifically, Macon and Sarah Leary (Hurt and Turner), a married couple whose young son was murdered about a year before the film begins, and they are, naturally, both in great pain.

In fact, neither Macon nor Sarah has been able to come to terms with the death, and Macon has become even more inward than he apparently was before. So Sarah announces she can’t live with him anymore and would like a divorce.

Sarah moves out and a short time later, after an accident that injures his foot, Macon also moves out; he takes up lodgings with his eccentric sister Rose, and his even more eccentric brothers Porter and Charles (Amy Wright, David Ogden Stiers, Ed Begley Jr.) in their late parents’ home.

     

William Hurt, Geena Davis and 'Edward' in 'The Accidental Tourist.'

And soon Macon meets up with Muriel Pritchett (Geena Davis), a flamboyant, eccentric dog trainer who obviously takes a shine to him. But since they are such disparate characters, Macon is not so quickly drawn to her.

After a time, however, as Muriel trains Macon’s dog Edward, she begins to wear him down, and eventually she and her young son become a part of Macon’s life.

But then — wouldn’t you know it? — Sarah reappears and wants to patch things up with Macon. And Macon must make a choice.

That’s basically the story here, along with a subplot about Rose being romanced by travel-writer Macon’s boss/publisher (Bill Pullman).

And the film, like the plot, is low-key, easygoing and just a bit offbeat.

Somehow, with all the tragic underpinnings of the film’s main agenda, “The Accidental Tourist” is very funny and most endearing, and not at all sad or angry.

      

      Kathleen Turner, William Hurt, 'The Accidental Tourist'

In fact, the film is probably more a celebration of life than anything around at the moment.

William Hurt is most effective as a man who has lost his ability to feel, until the right woman brings him back to life, and Kathleen Turner is very appealing in a role that plays down her sensual side. But it is Geena Davis who walks away with the film as the ever-effervescent Muriel, poor but happy, smart but not intellectual, and determined without being obnoxious.

The supporting cast is also quite good, in particular Macon’s zany family. But best-acting kudos in this movie perhaps should go to the dog that plays Edward — he’s a real charmer. Get outta town, Benji.

There is certainly room out there for something slightly off-center and life affirming, and “The Accidental Tourist” manages to hit all its targets, however gently. And it manages as well to make its audience think while it laughs and cries.

“The Accidental Tourist” is rated PG for a couple of profanities and implied sex.