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Lethal Weapon 2 Rated R; 1989; 114 minutes; Warner Home Video, $24.98. Spawned by the BMW of buddy movies, this blacktop-blistering bad-guy-getter is nearly twice as much fun as the original. More than mere cops and robbers, the sequel serves as a fond portrait of super-heroes with their pants down (literally) and a hopeful model of brotherly love. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are back as those tough but vulnerable detectives, Riggs and Murtaugh. Bickering their way through the opening chase, they quickly re-establish that squad-car camaraderie we know and love. After three years on the prowl together, there is still that rough-and-tumble tug of war between the hot dog

with nothing to lose and the paterfamilial Cosby of criminology. The two take on a deserving foe in the steely Arjen Rudd (Joss Ackland), a pompous South African diplomat who heads a flourishing drug cartel.

Because the Pilsener-swilling son of a tulip farmer has diplomatic immunity, the crafty partners come up with an alternative to arresting him that includes magnum-force fireworks and a demolition derby's worth of crashes. Sure, these conventions are older than Columbo's trench coat, but there is a new wrinkle in the person of scrappy sidekick Leo Getz (Joe Pesci), a runty accountant who laundered syndicate money and is turning state's evidence. Directed by gloss

king Richard Donner, Lethal Weapon 2 is an educated thriller secure enough in its masculinity to take chances with its heroes' dignity.

Alas, sex object Patsy Kensit learns that women who sleep with action heroes do so at their own risk, but her sacrifice does afford the rest of us a fuzzy glimpse of the Mad One's gluteus max.

- Rita Kempley Parenthood Rated PG-13; 1989; 124 minutes; MCA Home Video, $92.95.

Director Ron Howard brings the sitcom homilies of Happy Days and the hominy grist of Mayberry R.F.D. to bear upon sticky-fingered realities of bringing up babies in this feel-good, extended family comedy. Steve Martin heads up an amenable ensemble cast as Gil, an engaging everydad caught up in the vicissitudes of child-rearing. Neglected by his own dad (Jason Robards) when he was young, Gil is determined to be a model father to his three adorable children and a model husband to his wife, Karen (Mary Steenburgen). Structured like a suburban Hannah and Her Sisters, the parenting pitfalls that afflict his three siblings are quilted into the screenplay by frequent Howard collaborators Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandell. With the utmost proficiency, they propose simplistic Eisenhower-era answers to today's tough issues - abortion, teen-age pregnancy, paternal irresponsibility and yuppie greed - and

keep us chortling all the way. Have a baby or have another baby is their answer, no matter how inappropriate, to all of life's problems.

Parenthood is pabulum, but pabulum goes down real smooth.

- Rita Kempley Breaking In Rated R; 1989; 95 minutes; HBO Video, $89.99.

Bill Forsyth must have the most depressive sense of comedy in movie history. He travels with his own rain cloud. On some level all his movies are comedies, but their jokes are so ephemeral, so low-key that you barely notice them; they're sneaky-funny. Breaking In, which is about Ernie, a thieving old pro (Burt Reynolds) who takes a green young petty crook named Mike (Casey Siemaszko) as his partner, is filled with precious, perishable delights. But still, it's pocket-size. Watching the plot points emerge in Breaking In - which was written by John Sayles - is a bit like watching for waves in a pond. ("That was one, wasn't it?") Reynolds' Ernie approaches his work with a combination of artistry and slow-and-steady plodding. In the character, Sayles and Forsyth are working out their analogies between Ernie's life and the lives of artists. What Ernie knows (and tries to teach Mike) is that the cops aren't the enemy; the real enemy is within. That it's the thief who catches the thief. Though they're not as well articulated, the themes here are essentially the same as in Martin Scorsese's The Color of Money - it's a movie about character and art and the benefits of experience. Reynolds is perfect here.

Playing an older man with bad knees and bum sinuses, the actor seems younger; the role has gotten his acting juices flowing again.

Siemaszko's sloppy nonchalance is in neat counterpoint to the older actor's precision; they make a nice team.

- Hal Hinson Eat A Bowl Of Tea Rated PG-13; 1989; 104 minutes; RCA-Columbia Pictures Home Video, $89.95.

Eat a Bowl of Tea, Wayne Wang's tale of Chinese immigrants in New York after World War II, never really seems to get going. The movie has its share of melodrama; there's the exoticism of a prearranged marriage, impotence, infidelity, even a severed ear. But Wang can't seem to bring his story to a boil. It simmers endlessly, until all the flavor's gone. Wang has said that the film is a return to "the source of myself." But the picture, based on Louis Chu's novel about the end of a U.S. ban on the immigration of Chinese men with their wives, shows no sign whatsoever of personal investment. Wang creates a whole community of Chinese characters, most of whom have been living in New York's Chinatown as married bachelors since coming to this country.

These men appear to have adjusted to their decades-long estrangement from their families with remarkable ease. One of these characters retains his personality without becoming an eccentric ethnic cartoon.

As Wah Gay, the round-bellied owner of the neighborhood gambling club, Victor Wong is like a Chinese Edward G. Robinson. When Wah Gay's son, Ben Loy (Russell Wong), brings home his beautiful Chinese bride, Mei Oi (Cora Miao), the couple immediately becomes the focus of all the community's hopes for renewal. Unfortunately, the film shifts its focus to the kids, who aren't nearly as engaging. After it's over, only the memory of Wong's wondrously crooked leer remains.

- Hal Hinson

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