Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:32 - Released 4/2/99

Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn have both made interesting career journeys. When I was in high school, I used to listen to Steve's albums about "getting small," and my parents had no idea what I saw in the man. After starting his film career in silly movies like The Jerk and The Man with Two Brains, Martin matured into such projects as Parenthood and Father Of The Bride. Now his stock character is the stuffy, old-fashioned conservative, the opposite of his former "wild and crazy" persona. Hawn has had a similar maturation process, moving from her beginnings as a giggling, bikini-wearing go-go dancer on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In to an elegant, mature woman with something to say. And, it must be said, Martin and Hawn, both in their 50s, are still attractive and even sexy — perhaps more so than ever before.

These two have collaborated with some success before, in 1992's Housesitter. This time, in a revival of Neil Simon's The Out-Of-Towners (1970), the couple play Henry and Nancy Clark, a middle-class Ohio couple whose kids have gone to college and left them with nothing to do but each other. Henry has a job interview at a New York ad agency, and even though Nancy isn't sure she likes the idea of moving there, she goes with him on the trip to see the sights and get her mind off the empty nest back home. Henry is afraid to tell Nancy that his real reason for job-hunting is that he was downsized in favor of a younger model (as he puts it, "anyone who's over 40 is no longer cutting edge"), so he welcomes her on the journey, feigning excitement to cover his uncomfortable secret.

Before long, Murphy's Law has made its presence felt, subjecting the couple to a rerouted plane, a missed train, a rental car whose heater won't shut off, and various other annoyances. Then they are mugged by a man claiming to be Andrew Lloyd Webber, and they have no method of payment when they try to check into the posh hotel where Henry has booked a room. It is at this point that we meet John Cleese as Mr. Mersault, the hotel's manager, a performance that comes darned close to stealing the movie. Mustering their courage and pushing their newfound sense of adventure to its absolute limit, Henry and Nancy suffer through countless other misadventures, finally finding themselves on the run from the law.

This film, though it may not compare to Arthur Hiller's classic 1970 version with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis, is still one hoot after another. Directed by Sam Weisman (George of the Jungle), and with the combined experience of these three veterans of comedy — I include Cleese as an equal partner here — the timing and delivery of almost every line and every take is right on. Simon's script has been updated by Marc Lawrence (Forces of Nature), and I'm not sure what material is his and what is Simon's, but Hawn, Martin, and Cleese do fine by it. Also on hand is Saturday Night Live alum Mark McKinney as an amorous hotel guest Nancy uses to get at some room service. McKinney has proven himself as a hilarious comic, but this time he's playing the straight man.

Martin and Hawn are perfect for these roles. They show that despite the fact that they're pushing 60, they're still full of energy and youthful exuberance. And Cleese, well . . . I haven't seen him doing high kicks like that since his days at the Ministry of Silly Walks. ****½

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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