Movie Reviews : Waking Up to a Confused State in 'Dream'

In the sweet-natured but hopelessly confused "Dream a Little Dream" (citywide) Jason Robards' whimsical Coleman Ettinger says he's searching for that point "where dreams and reality intersect." He's hoping to enter a dream state so that he and his wife Gena (Piper Laurie) can possibly live forever. (Coleman and Gena are one of those mature screen couples directed to act like honeymooners.) Gena is as perplexed as we are by her husband's notion, but she agrees to join Coleman in some "transcendental" tai chi exercises on the front lawn of their spacious house in a picture-post card small city.

Just then Bobby (Corey Feldman), a dreamy 16-year-old, happens by, colliding with the bike-riding Lainie (Meredith Salenger), the most gorgeous girl in his high school. Both are knocked momentarily unconscious; when they come to, the spirits of Coleman and Gena have entered their bodies. Or so it seems, for "Dream a Little Dream" compounds its handicap of being at least the fifth body exchange comedy recently, by a self-defeating level of obscurity. You can never be certain at any given moment at which level of reality--or in whose dreams, perhaps--the film is unfolding. Coleman doesn't exactly take over Bobby's personality, yet Bobby seems to have acquired a 65-year-old's perspective. Gena seems to have little effect on Lainie until much later, when Lainie starts dreaming about her.

Director Marc Rocco and his writers are trying to show us young people and older people discovering what each has to offer the other, certainly a noble sentiment. They would have been far better off without the overused body swap gimmick, especially since they don't seem to have their hearts in it anyway. Overlong, repetitive and self-indulgent, "Dream a Little Dream" reveals its makers to be so enchanted with their characters that they lose all perspective. Although they do have a quartet of charmers in the central roles--augmented by Harry Dean Stanton as Coleman's sensible best friend--they can't overcome such a heady dose of muddled sentimentality.

"Dream a Little Dream," which has a very busy, noisy score, does allow Feldman and Salenger to shine, making us eager to see them in more rewarding circumstances. Feldman, who has a bright, rebellious intensity, continually makes unpredictable choices that set him apart from most young actors, and Salenger has a cool, assured presence. Feldman plays off Corey Haim, his likable sidekick in both this film and last year's "License to Drive" especially well. Susan Blakely, as Lainie's shallow mother, heads "Dream a Little Dream's" (PG-13 for language) substantial supporting cast.

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