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THE ASSOCIATE

       

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, July 13, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: Younger moviegoers probably don’t realize that Whoopi Goldberg was groomed for movie stardom following her Oscar-nominated debut in ‘The Color Purple’ (1985) with a string of pictures in the late ’80s in which she had top billing. Most of them were big-budget studio films, everything from R-rated comedies and action thrillers to gentle family fare. But among her many movies, she remains best known for the ‘Sister Act’ comedies (1992/1993) and the supernatural melodrama/mystery ‘Ghost’ (1990), for which she won an Oscar for her comic-relief supporting role. This is one of Goldberg’s failed post-“Sister Act” comedies, which has nonetheless received a Blu-ray upgrade from Kino Lorber. Here’s my review, published on Oct. 25, 1996.

Following in the footsteps of Robin Williams' "Mrs. Doubtfire" gig, Whoopi Goldberg does the cross-dressing thing in "The Associate."

If you've seen the trailers, you know the Whoopster undergoes a makeup-enhanced gender-switch in "The Associate." In her case, however, it's also a race switch. She masquerades as a white man.

The ploy is just as coy in the film as it is in the trailer, building up to the moment when we finally see Goldberg as a man. But it's a letdown, since the plastic face is so phony that it's hard to believe anyone standing next to her would believe this is a real person.

       

Whoopi Goldberg adjusts her male white-face prosthetic in 'The Associate.'

Has it really been 14 years since Dustin Hoffman pulled off "Tootsie" in a much more believable fashion? Where are all the movie-makeup advancements when you need them?

Anyway, before that happens, the bulk of the film is devoted to a men-are-pigs storyline, as Goldberg discovers that she can't compete with the good-old-boys network on Wall Street, despite her remarkable talent as a financial analyst. The male-chauvinist wheelers and dealers want to do business only with other men.

So Goldberg invents "Robert S. Cutty" as her partner, a fiction accepted by the bigwigs, despite their being unable to meet him. But she finds it difficult to keep the deception going, even with help from super-secretary Dianne Wiest.

All the predictable plot devices are here, from Goldberg having to show up as Cutty to her eventually trying to kill him off, then being arrested for his murder.

          

But it's not very funny. Just plodding and unimaginative.

There is, however, an unexpected moment when the film threatens to come to life, as a genius computer nerd (Austin Pendleton) begins exchanging goofy romantic glances with Wiest. They have terrific chemistry, and this brief spark suggests a wonderful subplot in the making.

But it's dropped as quickly as it's introduced.

"The Associate" certainly had potential but like so many of Goldberg's recent pictures — from "Sister Act 2" to "Eddie" — it never catches fire.

"The Associate" is rated PG-13 for profanity, vulgarity and nudity in a strip club.