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1998-2000 C. Petrovic

Original date of publication:
1990 TV Guide
Entertainment Network

No copyright infringement
is intended.

Original date of publication:
1990 TV Guide
Entertainment Network

No copyright infringement
is intended.

WELCOME HOME, ROXY CARMICHAEL
By: Jim Abrahams

          "Welcome Home Roxy Carmichael" is less a movie than it is a
    an example of what the studios refer to as "product," the kind of
    toothless comedy that features big stars in frenetic and forgettable
    farces. As he did with his solo directing debut, BIG BUSINESS, Jim
    Abrahams (one-third of the AIRPLANE! directing troika that includes
    David and Jerry Zucker) seems intent on reviving the Preston Sturges
    style of screen comedy. However, Abrahams's work recalls Sturges
    without recapturing what made him unique--his anarchic spirit. When
    movies become "product," true anarchy has no place. While BIG
    BUSINESS, with its twin couples and a plot hinging on love and money
    vaguely echoes THE PALM BEACH STORY, Abrahams dusts off HAIL THE 
    CONQUERING HERO. In ROXY, a small town is driven into lunacy by the 
    triumphant return of the title character, who has come home to 
    dedicate the institute of drama and cosmetology that is to bear her 
    name. HERO focuses on the dilemma of a phony war hero (played by 
    Eddie Bracken) who is about to be celebrated by his hometown; ROXY 
    shrouds its eponymous heroine ("played" by onetime Playboy centerfold 
    Ava Fabian) in mystery.  Although we get a lingering look at Roxy's 
    bare bottom during a skinny-dip, we never do see her face. Instead 
    ROXY puts at its center what was the sideshow in Sturges's classic, 
    the town--in this case Clyde, Ohio.

          As Roxy's arrival approaches, the women of the town drive the 
    local beauty shop and dressmakers to distraction, vying to make a
    competitive showing with the returning beauty. The men are mostly
    compelled to recall her "reputation." Roxy's arrival also provokes
    bittersweet memories, particularly for Denton Webb (Jeff Daniels),
    Roxy's former sweetheart, with whom she had a baby. Another
    ex-lover, a woman (Dinah Manoff), is similarly affected. But the
    film's real center is town misfit Dinky Bossetti (Winona Ryder), 
    the adopted daughter of a local carpet mogul, who becomes convinced
    that Roxy is her real mother. An outcast at her high school--the kids
    sit far away from her in the cafeteria and pelt her with food--Dinky
    writes overwrought romantic poetry hoping to win the love of a bland
    classmate (Thomas Wilson Brown, a Sean Penn lookalike who seems a
    little old to be cruising around town on his skateboard). She also
    keeps her own "ark," a wrecked cabin cruiser that is home to a pig
    Dinky has saved from slaughter, a goat, a tortoise, and a cute
    Benji-like dog with a bandaged forepaw. Given Dinky's bohemian-
    rustic nature, it's a little hard to fathom her worship of Roxy. 
    Though Roxy is a misfit herself, her fame stems mainly from having
    had a love song (performed by Melissa Etheridge on the soundtrack) 
    written about her. Presumably, Roxy's songwriter-lover has also 
    signed the royalty rights over to her, giving her ample wealth and 
    leisure time for her languorous nude swims.

          Thus ROXY would have us believe that sensitive, intelligent, 
    and creative small-town girls want nothing more than to grow up to 
    be Hollywood bimbos. In this pursuit, Dinky even has a mentor, her
    drop-dead gorgeous guidance counselor (Laila Robins), who carts
    Dinky off to Cleveland to get her some grown-up clothes and to
    reassure her about her breast development. All of this nonsense is
    especially odd for a movie whose writer (Karen Leigh Hopkins) and
    producer (Penney Finkelman Cox) are women. But the nonsense doesn't
    doesn't end there; Denton's shrewish wife angrily abandons him, not
    because he resumes his affair with Roxy (DOES HE?), but because he
    parks his truck outside her house. What's more, not much is made
    of Dinky's stepfather's sexual indiscretion with his sales assistant.
    Dinky catches Dad in the act, but he is apparently able to buy her
    silence by--what else?--recarpeting Dinky's bedroom in her favorite
    color, black.

          WELCOME HOME, ROXY CARMICHAEL tries to imitate Sturges, but  
    it obviously misses the point. Sturges loved the same small-town 
    characters that the makers of this film treat with cynical derision.
    Sturges gave these characters an understated nobility in their 
    deluded pursuit of the American Dream--not to mention some of his 
    best dialog. The makers of ROXY give them little more than the
    simpleminded cravings of stale sitcom grotesques. What real soul
    ROXY has is provided by Ryder's performance. Her poignant yearning,
    compulsive generosity, and infinite capacity for forgiveness are 
    the only elements in ROXY that would be at home in a Sturges film.
    In transcending the general crassness and inanity of ROXY, Ryder 
    reminds the viewer of the transcendent spirit of great movies like 
    those by Sturges. It can only be hoped that today's Hollywood will
    be able to rise to her challenge.