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Making Mr. Right (Blu-ray Review)

7 Dec, 2015 By: Mike Clark

$19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13.’
Stars Ann Magnuson, John Malkovich, Glenne Headly.

Director Susan Seidelman got a lot of industry buzz after Madonna’s notoriety helped Desperately Seeking Susan become one of the water-cooler sleepers of ’85 — though, truth to tell, I was always more of a Rosanna Arquette kind of guy if you want to bring formative Central Ohio hormones into it. But follow-up Making Mr. Right never caught on and regrettably took on the aura of a sophomore jinx even though Right was actually Seidelman’s third feature. Because I haven’t seen Susan since its original release, I won’t necessarily claim that Right is the better movie. It is, though, the funnier one and deserved a much better response than the one it got (though I see on Rotten Tomatoes that both Roger Ebert and Janet Maslin were originally on the plus column).

Just on a John Malkovich level, the picture has a lot going for it — casting the actor in two roles that are only slight dweeb-ish variations on each other. Malkovich I is often in a lab coat as the inventor of an android (cast in his own image) who’ll be blasted into outer space if the lab can come up with enough government funding. Malkovich II is the android itself — frequently dressed in a jumpsuit but also finding a way (thanks to a farcical Floyd Byars-Laurie Frank script) to get himself into a tux when he manages to escape the lab and get himself out into the real world, which almost inevitably includes a mall. In a co-lead performance that should have led to better things, Ann Magnuson had her best shot at big-screen stardom as a Miami PR person who’s hired to give both versions of Malkovich some warmth, which proves slightly easier for her to do with the android version.

Judging from the number of single women I see every night walking their oversized dogs in my neighborhood (all 3,000 of them), one of this comedy’s key themes doesn’t come off as very dated: the one that paints human men in such a bad light that a fake substitute is actually preferable (especially when it’s anatomically correct). Of course, there are built in problems. One is a tendency for the android’s head to fall off at unexpected times (not that there’d be too many expected ones), though the remaining torso is capable of stumbling around on his feet for a while. Or, the head might simply get twisted around in a “180” during moments of passion, upon which its bare behind is suddenly located on a line just a little south of his chin. It kind of kills the sex drive.

Still, the android Malkovich turns out to have a fragile sensitive side, and before long, he falls for Magnuson — much to the chagrin of a creator who’d prefer that his expensive baby not gum up things by coming under the unintended spell of (ick) a woman. Along the way, though, he experiences perilous first-time sex with a Magnuson sister (Glenne Headly, who was married in real life to Malkovich at the time) plus one of the worst dates on screen record with an amorously desperate femme equivalent of Otis Redding’s Mr. Pitiful (Laurie Metcalf in a really expert comic performance). All this and Polly Bergen, too, as a Magnuson mom who spends half her life at the spa getting her navel waxed or whatever it is that those middle-aged Miami types do.

This is one of those pictures that gets out of the gate so fast that it seems to stumble (though only occasionally) when the pacing slows down just a wee bit. In overall tone, it reminds me a teeny bit of 1948’s significantly superior Miss Tatlock’s Millions, which also dealt with mistaken identity and imbecilic behavior (if you want to see how a movie can be so beloved while languishing in obscurity with the masses, check out the Tatlock viewer comments on IMDb.com). Like certain other catalog releases from Kino as well as Olive, no one spent any government money intended for android production on knocking the print quality and/or transfer here into better shape — though visually speaking, it’s also true that no one “waited for the light” here in, say, Vittorio Storaro style, even in 1987. But it’s good to have this basically sweet-natured farce back in fresh circulation because at least it increases the chances of being noticed. For Malkovich fans, it’s pretty essential, and Magnuson is smooth as well at going with the flow in (and this has been said by others) a Shirley MacLaine kind of way.  

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