Friday September 6, 1996
"Bogus" is a celebration of the transforming powers of the imagination, a fantasy of infinite charm for all ages and a triumph for all concerned. It is a work of classic movie magic, the kind that relies upon talent, personality and well-honed skills rather than special effects.
It most effectively teams Whoopi Goldberg and France's premier screen star, Gerard Depardieu, who are joined by irresistible little Haley Joel Osment, yet another formidably accomplished yet completely natural child actor. "Bogus" is a kind of inspired blend of elements from "Baby Boom" and "Harvey."
Osment plays Albert, the 7-year-old son of a Las Vegas dancer (Nancy Travis), a vivacious, loving single mother. Albert is in the midst of a dream childhood, surrounded by his mother's doting colleagues. He's captivated by the star magician Mr. Antoine (Denis Mercier), a father figure who has inspired the boy to master some sleight-of-hand tricks himself. But Albert's world suddenly comes crashing down, and he winds up in the care of his mother's foster sister Harriet (Goldberg).
"I don't have a motherly bone in my body!" insists Harriet, the workaholic owner of a Newark restaurant supply business she is single-mindedly in the midst of trying to expand. Harriet is not without a bleak humor but she is a cold, sober woman prepared to do her duty with a reluctance she takes no pains to disguise. It's a good thing that while on the plane to Newark, Albert has invented an imaginary friend--a large, warm Frenchman (Depardieu) who calls himself Bogus.
Director Norman Jewison and screenwriter Alvin Sargent, working from a story by co-producer Jeff Rothberg and Francis X. McCarthy, cleverly blur the line between fantasy and the supernatural as Bogus, a constant source of affection and wisdom, seemingly takes on a life and mind of his own. It would seem that it's only a matter of time until Harriet, opening her heart at last, responds to Bogus herself. But Goldberg, an actress of enormous reserves and discipline, keeps us on edge, giving us an all-too-convincing portrait of a woman doggedly determined to succeed in the business in which she has buried herself, a woman who seemingly has felt love only from Albert's mother, when they were small children.
A slimmed-down Depardieu plays his innate earthiness against Bogus' ultimately ethereal nature; for him Bogus is as shrewd a Hollywood choice as was "Green Card." How adroitly these two major screen presences keep you in suspense as to when and how--and if--they will make a direct connection.
There's a fragile, fairy-tale quality to "Bogus," which Jewison sustains faultlessly and with considerable delicacy and concern for nuance. He brings to the film the warmth and good humor of his very first film, "40 Pounds of Trouble," his 1963 version of "Little Miss Marker."
Renowned production designer Ken Adam and cameraman David Watkin are key in helping Jewison keep a vital and shifting contrast between fantasy and reality. "Bogus" opens with Mr. Antoine, the magician, causing his wife, Babette (Ute Lemper), to float upon swirling dry-ice clouds, which anticipates a climactic fantasy sequence too glorious to reveal here.
This is the kind of foreshadowing that enriches the film throughout. "Bogus" is in the best Hollywood tradition of make-believe that yields genuine emotional impact.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Bogus, 1996. PG, for thematic elements and some mild language. A Warner Bros. presentation of a Yorktown/New Regency production. Director Norman Jewison. Producers Jewison, Arnon Milchan, Jeff Rothberg. Executive producers Michael Nathanson, Patrick Markey, Gayle Fraser-Baigelman. Screenplay by Alvin Sargent; from a story by Rothberg and Francis X. McCarthy. Cinematographer David Watkin. Editor Stephen Rivkin. Costumes Ruth Myers. Music Marc Shaiman. Production designer Ken Adam. Art director Alicia Keywan. Set decorator Hilton Rosenmarin. Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes. Whoopi Goldberg as Harriet. Gerard Depardieu as Bogus. Haley Joel Osment as Albert. Nancy Travis as Lorraine.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times