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Homer and Eddie

Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // April 14, 2009
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by David Cornelius | posted May 4, 2009 | E-mail the Author
There's a deep sense of desperation in "Homer and Eddie," its stars clawing and scratching at the screen in hopes of reminding the audience that hey, we're not just comedians. Such a move was useless - by 1989, we'd already seen both James Belushi and Whoopi Goldberg do serious work, sometimes to great effect. But no matter. They still had reputations as comic actors, all "K-9" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Saturday Night Live" and "Comic Relief," so here comes "Homer and Eddie" to showcase just how much Acting-with-a-capital-A the two could churn out.

The result is a movie that's full of characters but no real people, situations but no honesty. It's a grocery list of quirks and monologues, which both stars probably felt would be great to show off their chops, blissfully unaware of the train wreck they'd make.

Belushi plays Homer Lanza, described as mentally retarded but presented as whimsically naïve. He's lived alone for years in the sort of kooky small town where the local outhouse has no front door but nobody minds. Now he's set out to hitchhike back home to his parents, hoping to see his dying father one last time.

After he's robbed of all his cash and run out of a store for shoplifting, he runs across Eddie Cervi (Goldberg), who's recently escaped from the loony bin, and who's dying of a tumor, adding bitterness to her schizophrenia. The two become fast friends for vague reasons, something about Eddie helping Homer find his stolen cash, but maybe she'll rob him, too - it's all flimsy excuses to get these two nuts in one car.

In between the ill-timed acting showcases (Belushi is all geeky fey mannerisms; Goldberg's all about the loud freak-out and the crazy twitching), the screenplay (by Patrick Cirillo, later to pen the action flick "Tears of the Sun") dumps a steady stream of sappy melodrama. Will Homer's parents accept him? Will Eddie repent? There are long talks of religion, and after seeing a priest, Eddie begins to see Jesus walking around town, and oh, how they might just help fix each other and be the bestest of best friends.

But the script has it all wrong, and not just for overdosing on schmaltz. It's revealed that Eddie killed two people long ago, and the story is supposed to follow Eddie's redemption. Why, then, allow her to interrupt such redemption with a streak of robberies and assaults that ends with a cold-blooded murder? The story is on the right track at times, as it asks if Eddie is honest about her salvation or if she's just afraid of death; the scene with the priest suggests Eddie will not find hope in religion, but perhaps within herself, as though she needs to forgive herself before anyone else can. Yet Eddie remains such an ugly, spiteful, dangerous character that any sense of forgiveness feels completely inorganic, shoved in at the last minute to yank a few extra tears from viewers who just might buy into this stuff.

Homer, meanwhile, finds his story raced through all too quickly. There are no struggles once he arrives back home, no moment of tension. From his point of view, the movie is about a man who sets out to go somewhere, gets there, and is happy, and that's it.

Perhaps banking on the comic talents of its stars, the movie awkwardly tries to blend comedy in with the drama, leaving us with oddball moments like the one where Eddie sets up Homer with her prostitute cousin (Ernestine McClendon). We're supposed to laugh because the hooker is fat and old, ha ha, then sigh contently as she shares a tender moment with Homer. Such a scene could work, but not in a movie this clumsy, this heavy-handed.

The whole movie is like that: zany buddy comedy blended with syrupy drama, and as long as the stars get to show off with manic tics, who cares if anything works? Director Andrei Konchalovsky squeezed this film in between his well-received drama "Shy People" and his box office action hit "Tango & Cash," proving he can handle serious and silly with equal ease. But here he's a slave to a clunky screenplay and two actors eager to oversell every moment.

The DVD

Lionsgate has released "The Night Before" under their "Lost Collection" label. The series' slogan - "The Best Movies You Totally Forgot About" - leaves much up for debate from several angles, and the package art is a tad annoying, as is the generic intentionally-tacky menu, but at least fans will appreciate finally getting a long overdue DVD release.

Video & Audio

Once again, this "Lost Collection" release is presented in 1.33:1 full screen, which appears to be an open matte reformatting of the original widescreen image. Nothing seems cramped and the image zooms nicely. There's also a heavy dose of grain and the colors seem rather washed out, which doesn't help much.

The soundtrack, listed as 5.1 surround but sounding purely stereo, comes through nicely, with no issues with dialogue or music (and oh, how the music blares obnoxiously throughout). Optional English and Spanish subtitles are provided.

Extras

No "Lost Collection" title would be complete without the crummy, useless "Trivia Track" subtitle option, which provides mediocre trivia tidbits throughout the film. The subtitles remain on screen for a ridiculous amount of time, the trivia is in the aggravating form of multiple choice questions, and there's a ridiculous amount of downtime between each track.

A batch of previews for other Lionsgate releases is also included; these previews also play as the disc loads.

Final Thoughts

Even without the rotten disc presentation, "Homer and Eddie" would still be worth too little. Skip It.
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