It took a moment to remember that the year was in fact 1990 after viewing the first few minutes of the new comedy Sibling Rivalry. The overly long opening shot of a "perfect-but-dissatisfied" woman driving her Volvo station wagon through leafy lanes, the ancient title lettering and the dreadful airport jazz sound track made me think I had fallen asleep and awakened during a 1978 vintage Movie of the Week about "relationships."
The rest of director Carl Reiner's Sibling Rivalry lived up to its opening moments and delivered a dated and dull piece of garbage that provided only ironic laughs.
Perfect Wife Marjorie Turner (Kirstie Alley) spices up her boring marriage by having an affair with a mysterious man (Sam Elliot) who dies after the bliss. The dead man proves to be her brother-in-law. Madcap hilarity and loads of laffs ensue.
It sounds bad. It's worse to watch.
The structure of Sibling Rivalry borrows something from sex, lies and videotape in using two sisters with two distinct personalities. Marjorie is the wholesome sister and Jeanine (Jami Gertz) is the Bohemian.
Neither character is interesting in the slightest. Marjorie is a spineless milksop who shows little sign of the yearning that's supposedly roiling under her respectable veneer. Jeanine is a space cadet.
The sibling rivalry of the title is hardly a rivalry, though there are three sets of siblings. Wilbur O'Neal (oatmeal faced Ed O'Neill from Fox TV's Married . . . With Children) plays a cop whose harmless low-life brother Nick (Bill Pullman) proves an embarrassment to him.
Pullman is the only saving grace of the movie. Nick, who mistakenly thinks he killed Elliot's character, is a failed window blind salesman in a world that seems interested only in drapes. Pullman plays Nick perfectly: He wears a tape measure on his polyester pants and a petroleum-product tie around his neck, which seems as retractable as a turtle's.
There are other sibling relationships. Marjorie's brother-in-law, a Nobel-nominated doctor, has always made Marjorie's husband Harry (Scott Bakula from NBC's Quantum Leap) feel inadequate. Harry's the youngest child in a family of doctors that includes a pushy sister played by Carrie Fisher.
None of the relationships is well drawn, and the humor begins and ends with the brief affair and quicker death. Anyone who sees the television advertisements for Sibling Rivalry already knows as much. The rest of the movie brings only the aggravation of watching a bad script poorly told.
Sibling Rivalry +
Director: Carl Reiner
Cast: Kirstie Alley, Bill Pullman, Carrie Fisher, Jami Gertz, Scott Bakula
Screenplay: Martha Goldhirsch
Running time: 88 minutes
Excellent +++++; Very good ++++;
Good +++; Mediocre ++; Poor +