Fatal Beauty

January 5, 2012

With Fatal Beauty, the mystery of Whoopi Goldberg continues to deepen. The mystery, unfortunately, is: Why is this gifted performer determined to make such nondescript movies? Fatal Beauty is the third dud in a row, after Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Burglar, and it seems clear now that Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with her.

In her new film Goldberg has been unequivocally cast as the distaff Eddie Murphy; it’s her Beverly Hills Cop. As in Murphy’s movies, the role of a cop provides excuses for the character to go undercover and indulge in off-the-wall comedic riffs. So Goldberg gets to try on wacky clothes, test different accents, etc.

Insofar as this allows for some impressive mimickry, fine. But in between Goldberg’s bits of improvisation, there isn’t much of a movie going on.

It’s standard fare, with the emphasis on some deadly drugs that are making the rounds of Hollywood. Whoopi knows the culprit is a fatcat (Harris Yulin), but she’s kept at a distance by his hunky security chief (Sam Elliott).

There’s some slight romance going on between Goldberg and Elliott. We must infer much of it, however, since a love scene between the two was cut out after preview audiences expressed their disapproval. Goldberg is black, Elliott is white; you may also infer what you like about MGM’s lack of guts. (Chastity seems to be another thing Goldberg shares with Murphy, since, with the exception of a few randy outbursts in 48 HRS., Eddie’s screen life has also been curiously loveless.)

Well, the sex scene might’ve added some interest. Now all that’s left is a series of shootings and a few Whoopi wisecracks. The script has that mish-mashy quality that comes from too many writers putting too many hands on it, and it gets small life from director Tom Holland, whose Fright Night of a couple of years ago was a sprightly little horror flick.

A few of the supporting actors run wild. Yulin and John P. Ryan do their usual sleazoid numbers, and Brad Dourif does his patented long-haired weirdo. But when you start savoring these sorts of distractions, you know the movie’s in trouble.

First published in the Herald, October 1987

This could easily have been a decent picture, and it did catch Goldberg in that phase where she still seemed new and talented and sort of hip. Winning an Oscar for Ghost will definitively end that phase for a person.