Sally Field’s Gidget days are long behind her, and she’s firmly established as a serious actress. Now, every time she sets her jaw or looks dowdy (Norma Rae, Places in the Heart), it seems she wins an Oscar.
Only trouble is, Sally still wants to do comedy, and justifiably so. But it’s a measure of the dearth of good comedy scripts that she’s been reduced to the likes of Surrender, a thoroughly tired sitcom.
This is the one about the poor-but-spunky painter (Field) who makes the acquaintance of a rich novelist (Michael Caine). He, however, has been taken to the cleaners by previous wives, and is paranoid about women. So he pretends to be poor, waiting to see whether Field will fall for him for his own sake, and not just for his money.
Wait a second, haven’t we just unearthed the plot of an old Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie? Yep, so it seems, and the archaeologist here is writer-director Jerry Belson (Fun with Dick and Jane), who doesn’t appear at all perturbed about his weary concept. He plays out all the predictable plot complications with a deadening inevitability.
Field responds with an oddly charmless performance, as though she were singing a song in the wrong key. Steve Guttenberg plays her wealthy boyfriend, a whiny weasel. Jackie Cooper plays her father, who tells his daughter that she doesn’t absolutely have to marry Guttenberg, “Just someone in his bracket.”
And so we are left with Michael Caine, who at least appears comfortable with the thought that he makes more movies than any other lead actor. Caine glides by on sheer professionalism, and invests his woman-wary scenes with some intensity. Everything else about the movie is just exhausted.
First published in The Herald, October 1987
The cast includes Peter Boyle, Louise Lasser, Julie Kavner, and Iman. Belson was an old-school TV comedy writer, and a longtime writing partner of Garry Marshall. His bigscreen writing credits are somewhat offbeat, including the Burt Reynolds black comedy The End and Michael Ritchie’s Smile, and apparently he did uncredited work on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Let us note that Cannon Films had a hand in this, although the movie seems to have been distributed by Warner Bros.