MOVIE REVIEW : 'Serious Money': Two-Bit Comedy

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In "We're Talkin' Serious Money" (selected theaters), a couple of two-bit con men from Queens, N.Y., botch a mob-financed scam and high-tail it to sunny, blissed-out L.A. The comedy of the situation is how these embattled New York types fit into Lotusland.

Given what Lotusland has been through in the last week, this scenario will no doubt register a bit differently for audiences than the filmmakers intended. The flimsiness of this PG-13-rated film's view of L.A. is typical--and so it seems flimsier than ever.

As the small-timers on the run from the New York mob, Dennis Farina and Leo Rossi (who co-scripted with director James Lemmo) try to work up an engaging, "Honeymooners"-style camaraderie. Farina's Sal looks imposing but he's a thug softy; Rossi's Charlie is a squirrelly conniver whose wimpiness ends up being a double whammy.

These actors work up some amusing, low-key riffs; they hook into each other's comic rhythms even though their dialogue is studded with duds. But the material is so familiar that even the funny stuff doesn't really register. There's nothing solid for it to hook into.

And the filmmakers made a major miscalculation by giving Fran Drescher a small role. As Sal's beleaguered, sympathetic paramour, Drescher demonstrates yet again her amazing comedic gifts. Coming from her, the New York snarl sounds almost affectionate. Drescher has the ability to seem both spaced-out and wised-up. It's a great combo. She deserves a movie that does her justice.

'We're Talkin' Serious Money'

Dennis Farina: Sal

Leo Rossi; Charlie

Fran Drescher: Valerie

A Cinetel Films Inc. presentation. Director James Lemmo. Producer Paul Hertzberg. Executive producer Harold Welb. Screenplay James Lemmo, Leo Rossi. Cinematographer Jacques Haitkin. Editor Steve Nevius. Music Scott Grusin. Art director Susan Benjamin. Production designer Dins Danielson. Set decorator Rob Scolari. Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG-13.

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