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At the Movies: “Crazy People″

April 11, 1990 GMT

Undated (AP) _ ″Crazy People″ is about truth in advertising. A fantasy, of course.

But it’s fun to go along with the joke and imagine seeing a TV commercial proclaiming: ″Buy a Volvo - they’re boxy but they’re good.″ Or a newspaper ad for United Airlines: ″Most of our passengers get there alive.″

Such ads are the premise for ″Crazy People″ and the source of its biggest laughs. Corporations may be outraged by the satirical jabs (Paramount Pictures apparently asked for no permissions), but advertising folks are likely to be as amused as anyone, and will go right back to writing the same old ads.

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Dudley Moore is an ad man on the edge. We can recognize that during the titles, when he rages at the other helpless drivers on a gridlocked bridge to Manhattan. His partner at the agency, Paul Reiser, and his bullying boss, J.T. Walsh, also suspect Moore’s sanity when he suggests stating the truth in ads such as one for Greek tourism: ″Forget France - the French can be annoying.″

When Moore’s outrageous ads mistakenly get in print, there seems only one place for him: the funny farm. With amazingly little resistance, he allows himself to be registered at the Bennington Sanitarium, where he joins a therapy group of other escapees from life’s travails. One is Daryl Hannah, whose ailment is never quite clear.

Moore’s ads turn out to be a roaring success, and his old boss seeks him out for more. Moore insists on enlisting his therapy buddies to help create new ads, and they operate a cottage industry at the sanitarium. All goes well until the avaricious Walsh blows the deal. The ad-writing patients’ world falls apart but, of course, Moore saves the day.

″Crazy People″ is the inspired work of writer Mitch Markowitz (″Good Morning, Vietnam″) who started as director but was replaced by Tony Bill. Markowitz’s script is bright and original, suffering only in the late portions when the plot has to be tidied up. Bill, whose directing (″My Bodyguard,″ ″Six Weeks,″ ″Five Corners″) has had mixed results, demonstrates a fine touch with comedy.

Moore is the one who keeps the champagne bubbling. He is in top form, a delightfully demented leprechaun. Hannah is decorative as always, but she struggles with the vagueness of her character. Reiser of TV’s ″My Two Dads″ makes an excellent foil, and Mercedes Ruehl is warmly sympathetic as the psychiatrist.

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″Crazy People″ is likely to offend mental health people as much as advertisers. The patients are played strictly for laughs.

Tom Barad produced the comedy which is rated R, mostly for language. Running time: 90 minutes.

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Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G - General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG - Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 - Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R - Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

X - No one under 17 admitted. Some states may have higher age restrictions.