In "Leonard Part 6" (citywide), Bill Cosby seems to be trying to resurrect the tongue-in-cheek high adventure of his "I Spy" days while remaining the father figure of his current "Cosby Show," one of the highest-rated series in television history. Unfortunately, his attempt is mired in a grim mishmash of overly elaborate production values and inane humor.
"Leonard Part 6" is a smug, tedious exercise in self-indulgence, and it's easy to understand former Columbia chief David Puttnam's reported lack of enthusiasm for the project. Paul Weiland, a veteran of British TV commercials, in his feature debut, directed, and Jonathan Reynolds adapted Cosby's story. But clearly Cosby, as star, producer and idea man, is the auteur here.
Cosby casts himself as Leonard Parker, a superspy who has retired to become San Francisco's toniest restaurateur. But he's the only man who can defeat the evil Medusa (Gloria Foster), a crazed ecologist who has a magical sphere that can turn all animals, even house pets, into killers. Leonard would rather concentrate on winning back his beautiful estranged wife (Pat Colbert) and steering his flighty 20-year-old daughter (Victoria Rowell) away from the clutches of a pretentious theatrical director (Moses Gunn).
The animal gimmick is as hopelessly silly as it sounds. As a result, Cosby is more at ease coping with Rowell, who displays a lovely, dizzy comic flair in her film debut.
There's virtually nothing to laugh at in this film, and too much of everything else. The film is top-heavy with superlatives: that Leonard has to be the greatest secret agent and the greatest gourmand smacks of self-importance in the absence of real humor. He's weighed down with a luxurious life style Donald Trump might envy and more gadgets than Agent 007.
Foster, Gunn and Tom Courtenay as Leonard's devoted English butler supply as much sparkle and relish as they can, but you can't help wishing you were watching actors of this stature in material worthy of them. Courtenay explains the film's curious title by telling us that Leonard's five previous adventures had been "confiscated for reasons of security." Too bad they let this one, rated PG, out.
'LEONARD PART 6'
A Columbia presentation of an SAH Enterprises production. Executive producer for Bill Cosby: Steve Sohmer. Executive producer Alan Marshall. Producer Bill Cosby. Director Paul Weiland. Screenplay Jonathan Reynolds; from a story by Cosby. Camera Jan De Bont. Music Elmer Bernstein. Production designer Geoffrey Kirkland. Visual effects produced by Richard Edlund. Costumes Aggie Guerard Rodgers. Choreographer Louis Falco. Associate producer Ned Kopp. 2nd unit director M. James Arnett. 2nd unit camera Eric Andersen. Film editor Gerry Hambling. With Bill Cosby, Tom Courtenay, Joe Don Baker, Moses Gunn, Pat Colbert, Gloria Foster, Victoria Rowell, Anna Levine, David Maier, Grace Zabriskie.
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.
MPAA-rated: PG (parental guidance suggested).