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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Dead Men’ Buries Comic Plot With Lifeless Gags

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

“Dead Men Don’t Die” (at the Beverly Connection)--a zany zombie comedy apparently intended as fun for the entire family--comes virtually embalmed on arrival, ready for the video shelves where the undead fleetingly live. It’s like at least a couple of things warmed over, death being one of them.

Elliott Gould stars as a popular TV anchorman who gets shot up by thugs but, even in death, is able to maintain his high-paying career. Rest assured (or rest in peace) that the preceding high-concept summary is far funnier than the film itself, which relies for gags on long-stiff stereotypes about bumbling cops and robbers, greedy TV executives, blonde bimbos and black women who practice voodoo.

Hardly solely to blame, Mabel King is most embarrassing as the jolly Jamaican practitioner of the black arts who brings Gould back to life for her own manipulative purposes. Gould looks pallid even before his death scene--like Paul Moyer with a Jerry Lewis oil slick of a hairstyle--and spends the last two-thirds of the film in pancake makeup grunting and grinning like a drunken Frankenstein’s monster.

Only Melissa Anderson, the grown-up “Little House on the Prairie” dweller who plays Gould’s ambitious co-anchor, redeems herself with a sharp sense of comic timing way beyond the rest of the movie.

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Former Disney screenwriter Malcolm Marmorstein (“Return to Witch Mountain”) wrote and directed this PG-13 fare, much of the budget of which probably went to obtaining rights to the Oingo Boingo song “Dead Man’s Party.”


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