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Adrift, in the sea of torpidity

Times Staff Writer

January is the Angeles Crest Highway for the disposal of bad movies, and that dumping of celluloid corpses plagued us right through the month’s final weekend. “Fascination,” a stupendously torpid thriller without a single redeeming quality, opened Friday without review screenings.

Set in the Florida Keys (but shot principally in Puerto Rico), the film begins with a wealthy middle-aged man, Patrick Doherty (James Naughton), getting his head bashed against some rocks in a swimming accident, accompanied by the portentous beat of the film’s score. Ten minutes into the movie and you fast realize he’s the lucky one, never having to spit out another line of the film’s dopey dialogue.

From there, director Klaus Menzel’s screenplay displays the structural integrity of a wet newspaper, tossing off red herrings with alacrity. Doherty’s tan, glamorous widow, Maureen (Jacqueline Bisset), no sooner returns from a cruise on the arm of a sturdy Brit, Oliver Vance (Stuart Wilson) -- much to the dismay of her brooding young composer son, Scott (Adam Garcia) -- than they’re planning their nuptials.

That his dad earned an Olympic medal for swimming (40 years earlier!) causes Scott to suspect the death was not accidental, leaving him easy prey for Oliver’s manipulative but beguiling daughter, Kelly (Alice Evans). When Scott storms out of the wedding, Kelly is quick to comfort her soon-to-be stepbrother with some vigorous rooftop sex, triggering an apparently passion-driven rainstorm.

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Initially the only intriguing character, Kelly unfortunately fades from femme fatale long before the Tantric sex kicks in and the final credits roll. Kelly prefaces the film’s big “reveals” by looking meaningfully at Scott and saying, “I’ve got to tell you something.” Inevitably, it’s either something the audience will already have figured out or new information so far out of left field that she seems to be making it up on the spot.

Evans and Garcia exhibit little chemistry in their perfume-ad-inspired love scenes, and the beaches and resort-like Doherty residence do little other than recommend the locations as a vacation destination. “Fascination,” thankfully, fades from memory as fast as most January releases.

*

‘Fascination’

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MPAA rating: R for strong sexuality and for language.

Times guidelines: The sex is about as stimulating as Sanka.

Adam Garcia...Scott Doherty

Jacqueline Bisset...Maureen

Alice Evans...Kelly Vance

Stuart Wilson...Oliver Vance

James Naughton...Patrick Doherty

A Quality Films/Classicmap production, released by MGM. Producer-director Klaus Menzel. Executive producers Ingo Deinert, Armin Stieler. Screenplay Klaus Menzel, based on a screenplay by Daryl Haney and John Jacobs. Director of photography Reinhart Peschke. Editor Toby Yates. Costume designer Susanna Puisto. Music John Du Prez. Production designer Marc Greville-Masson. Art director Mayna Magruder. Set decorator Monica Monserrate. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.

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Exclusively at Loews Cineplex Beverly Center Cinema, 8522 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (800) FANDANGO, No. 701.


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