Los Angeles Times

Wrongfully Accused

Saturday August 22, 1998

     More than anything else, "Wrongfully Accused," which opened Friday, reminds us that it's been nearly 20 years since "Airplane!," and that the zany spoof of big popular pictures is in need of a rest. As a sendup (of sorts) of "The Fugitive"--and scenes from a clutch of other movies--the film reveals how stale the formula has become in a summer season that has brought us "There's Something About Mary."
     Writer-producer-director Pat Proft, star Leslie Nielsen and others, most notably Richard Crenna, work up a chuckle here and there and elicit a smile every now and then, but Warner Bros. need not worry that it will be "wrongfully accused" of slighting a comic gem by delaying the film's press preview long enough to avoid opening-day reviews. (Since "Wrongfully Accused" was not trying to be anything more than mindless fun, it's actually less depressing than "Dead Man on Campus," the week's other clunker comedy, which Paramount previewed at the last possible minute for critics to make Friday opening-day deadlines.)
     Nielsen, who might consider a change of pace himself, plays a klutzy (what else?) violin virtuoso (who steals from Jimi Hendrix, of all people, for his finish) who is framed by gorgeous vamp Kelly Le Brock for the murder of her husband, Michael York. Nielsen is swiftly on the run, with Crenna, in the Tommy Lee Jones part, on his tail. It seems that York has discovered that Le Brock is actually a political terrorist, involved in a plot to assassinate the U.N. secretary-general. In any event, a blah mystery woman (Melinda McGraw) is apparently the only person on the face of the Earth who believes in Nielsen's protests of innocence, but who is she anyway and what's her angle?
     Proft doesn't make us care about her identity or anything else for that matter, for "Wrongfully Accused" is a movie merely going through the paces in mechanical fashion. It could have used considerably more of the wit and elegance of Le Brock and York, who are on screen too briefly, and only Crenna has a role of sufficient characterization to be able to make a substantial amusing impression, as a solemn lawman with a hick drawl. (Sandra Bernhard turns up for what seems less than an instant.)
     Perhaps Minnesotans might be a tad more amused than the rest of us by "Wrongfully Accused" because fellow Minnesotan Proft has named his characters after actual locales in his native state. Indeed, although the film was shot in Canada (Vancouver, mainly), where so many mediocre U.S. productions are shot, it's supposed to be set in a Minneapolis suburb, Columbia Heights, where Proft was born and raised.

Wrongfully Accused, 1998. PG-13, for sex-related humor and language. A Warner Bros. presentation of a Morgan Creek production in a co-production with Constantin Film. Writer-director-producer Pat Proft. Based on characters created by Roy Huggins. Producers James G. Robinson and Bernd Eichinger. Executive producers Robert L. Rosen, Gary Barber and Martin Moszkowicz. Cinematographer Glen MacPherson. Editor James R. Symons. Costumes Jori Woodman. Music Bill Conti. Production designer Michael Bolton. Art director Sandy Cochrane. Set designer Gwendolyn Margetson. Set decorator Lin MacDonald. Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes. Leslie Nielsen as Ryan Harrison. Richard Crenna as Fergus Falls. Kelly Le Brock as Lauren Goodhue. Melinda McGraw as Cass Lake. Michael York as Hibbing Goodhue. Sandra Bernhard as Doctor Fridley.

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