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Movie Reviews : ‘Vibes’ Not Quite in Harmony in Comedy Fare

“Vibes” (selected theaters) is a low-vibration romantic comedy about two incompatible psychics falling in love on an Ecuadorean treasure hunt, and everything in it seems nine or 10 beats off. The production is lavish and plush; the story empty and silly. The photography is gorgeous; the lines gauche. The actors are talented, but they don’t connect. The movie is about second sight, but it’s mostly made by people who can’t convince us they see straight the first time--like six blind men grabbing at a High Concept.

The two main characters--Nick Deezy (Jeff Goldblum) and Sylvia Pickel (Cyndi Lauper) are supposed to be attuned to mental waves. Deezy is a psychometric who can pick up the past history of objects by touching them, and Ms. Pickel (accent on the “el”) is in constant touch with a clairvoyant spirit named Louise.

Yet their penetration into future and past flips off conveniently when they’re recruited by Peter Falk’s shifty-eyed Harry Buscafusco. First, this obvious phony begs help in locating a lost son; then he switches to a Scrooge McDuck expedition for a lost city of gold. Finally, he leads them to near death and a mammoth crystal slab that may be Energy Central for the universe.

A 10-year-old child could probably see through Buscafusco. But Nick--who divines his girlfriend’s infidelities by touching her panties--never bothers to stroke Harry’s socks. And Sylvia blithely follows both of them everywhere without getting the lowdown from Louise.

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“Vibes” is one of those movies that tries to mix up small, recognizable human emotions--in this case, the skewed attraction between straight arrow antiquities expert Deezy and ditzy beauty parlor kook Pickel--with a high-spice adventure backdrop. But screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel can’t create a credible romance here any more than they can dish up credible adventure or comedy.

Ganz and Mandel’s recent scripts (“Night Shift” and “Splash”) work from the collision of two characters: an unbuttoned, screwball wisecracker against a repressed romantic. Here, the flake and the straight arrow are the romantic couple, Lauper and Goldblum, with Falk a sort of secondary flake. And the love scenes have a flat, goofy edge.

Lauper isn’t served well in her movie debut; she’s exploited as a star and left floundering as an actress.

But then, none of the other actors is served, either. Only one scene in this movie really clicks--a macabre hospital episode with Michael Lerner as Harry’s ravaged, gray-faced partner--and that may be purely due to Lerner’s zombie intensity.

Director Ken Kwapis showed a nice, gentle comic touch in the Sesame Street movie, “Follow That Bird,” but here he seems buried under the top-heavy production, the thudding wisecracks and the unchemical combination of Goldblum and Lauper. (When they tango together, they resemble Ichabod Crane cutting a rug with Betty Boop.)

“Vibes” (MPAA rated PG) misfires so badly that it’s most typical element may be villain Googy Gress’ appalling attempt at a Scandinavian accent. The rhythm is all wrong and he seems to be mixing up “Yumpin’ Yiminy"-style vaudeville Swedish with stage comic Nazi and Connecticut Yankee. Here, as everywhere else, the vibes don’t jibe--and every mind we read comes out blank.


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