Kindergarten CopPG-13, 1990, 111 minutes, MCA-Universal Home Video, no suggested price.
Following a trend as surely as an echo trails a yodeler, Arnold Schwarzenegger has traded his sword for a glue stick and his trademark smirk for a milk mustache in this reunion with Twins director Ivan Reitman.
Schwarzenegger plays a street-smart cop who brings law and order to a classroom full of unruly but adorable youngsters. Whether they are abused, neglected or let down by the school system, all they really need, finds Cop, is a little discipline. It's To Conan With Love.
Reitman, who built Twins around the size difference between Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, again pits his galoot against the Lilliputians. Aside from the 30 tykes, there is Pamela Reed as his spunky partner and elfin Linda Hunt as the principal of the elementary school where he goes undercover to catch a crook. Gradually he falls in love with teaching, a third-grade teacher (Penelope Ann Miller) and the kindergarteners themselves, but not before they test his mettle with their wacky shenanigans. While Schwarzenegger manages against all odds to be appealing as this Austrian au pair, Kindergarten Cop has one basic flaw _ it caters to children but it's too scary for them.
_ Rita Kempley
Conan The Barbarian
R, 1982, 115 minutes, MCA-Universal Home Video, $19.99.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is up to his gluteus maximus in severed heads as Conan the Barbarian, an iron-wielding lummox from the fictional Hyborean Age. Pretentiously directed by John Milius, this Kong-size celebration of violence misses the humor that later became Schwarzenegger's trademark.
Still Conan is a pretty good, albeit unintentional, joke. Herein the little orphaned Conan grows to manhood while chained to a mill wheel, where his scrawny muscles grow massive with the daily chore of grinding grain. Once his thighs are as thick as his skull, he becomes first a pit gladiator and later a soldier of fortune.
Sandahl Bergman serves as his sassy girl sidekick, an Amazon who is fond of saying, "Whatzamattah? You want to live forevah?" as the two battle hordes of unfriendlies on their way to kidnap and deprogram a princess held by an evil cult leader, Thulsa Doom (James Earl Jones). Finally, nothing would do but to add a little musical muscle: a Wagnerian hootenanny sung by a choir of hysterics as brutes of every race, creed and color skewer one another on pikes or lop off heads. "Ooha . . . OOOhaaa . . . OOOOHAAA," they carol, when a simple ugh would do.
_ Rita Kempley
R, 1991, 114 minutes, HBO Video, $92.99.
Stephen Frears' The Grifters is a delectable con job of a movie. It seduces you into believing it's merely a cheeky trifle and then, when you least expect it, lowers the boom. Indeed, the tone of this nimble, persistently odd movie is wicked and buoyant.
With a script from Donald Westlake, who worked from the Jim Thompson novel about a trio of small-time crooks, the picture is brisk and sleekly contoured, with a sophisticated sense of cynical fun. Frears plays up the venal gamesmanship of his wise-guy opportunists; clearly, he appreciates the precision craftsmanship that goes into their con artistry.
Frears has assembled a sublime cast of actors to play his sleazy pack of operators. Roy (John Cusack), lives in a borderline reputable hotel in L.A., plays the "short con," working low-risk nickel-and-dime grifts designed to keep him in the game but out of trouble. There's a problem, though; his girlfriend, Myra (Annette Bening), is built for limousines and the fast lane.
_ Hal Hinson
From The Washington Post