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The Super is a miserable vehicle for Joe Pesci's talents

Don't typeset this until Thursday -- so says Debby. (We'll have to find out when and where the movie is printed.) -- Reuven

THE SUPER

Written by Sam Simon.

Directed by Rod Daniel.

Starring Joe Pesci, Ruben Blades,

and Vincent Gardenia.

Now playing at ??????.

By CHRIS ROBERGE

JOE PESCI IS A TALENTED ACTOR. In Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull and GoodFellas, he played vulgar and violent characters to perfection, filling up the screen with his intensity. In Richard Donner's Lethal Weapon 2, he showed great comic skill in the part of the money launderer under police protection. Why, then, did Pesci choose as his first leading role that of Louie Kritskie, the uncaring landlord of the dismally dull comedy, The Super?

The Super begins with a scene from Louie's childhood, in which Louie's father, Big Lou (Vincent Gardenia), chases one of his tenants down an alley in an attempt to collect the rent. Big Lou is a superintendent who works with two main rules: buy where there is "death, divorce or destitution" and never change anything.

Next, we see Lou, Jr. going through the same weekly adventure years later in a decrepit apartment building that he received as a birthday gift from his father. The tenants complain about the lack of electricity, plumbing and heat, but all that Louie sees missing is the rent. Eventually, the Housing Authority notices the residents' situation, and Louie is convicted and sentenced to spend 120 days in one of his own apartments. If at the end of that period the violations are not corrected, Louie has to spend one year in prison. To add to his problems, his father tells him that if he even changes one light bulb in the building, Louie will be written out of his will.

From here the movie makes a poor attempt to mold itself into something

like Regarding Henry and The Doctor, in which a man, when given a different view of his life, realizes what a loser he is. But nothing at all in this film is believable, least of all the change of heart that Louie eventually makes. The screenwriters drag up other clich'es as well, including the beautiful lawyer (Madolyn Smith Osborne) whom Louie tries to seduce, the street-smart resident (Ruben Blades) who at first takes advantage of Louie's naivet'e but eventually becomes his friend, and the young black tenant (Kenny Blank) who helps Louie realize the similarities between himself and the people who he mistreats.

Of course, all of this could possibly

be overlooked if the movie were funny enough. After all, The Super is supposed to be a comedy, right? Wrong. All of the jokes here are even lamer than the contrived plot that frames them. Too much of the humor centers around dumb stereotypes of race and gender, a problem that the film's climactic change of attitudes never really resolves. The comic possibilities of the tenants finally getting to seek revenge on their superintendent never really pay off, and the movie quickly becomes tedious.

What Pesci is doing in the middle of all of this is a mystery. He definitely isn't giving a good performance. Given a dull and unlikeable character whose dialogue consists mainly of painfully unfunny one-liners, he doesn't have room to give Louie Kritskie any emotion beyond stupidity. Pesci's only other mediocre performance before this was as a bungling thief in last year's Home Alone, which was at least well-made, if occasionally brain-dead. One of his most telling lines in The Super is his reaction to seeing the apartment where he will have to live: "Well at least its got a motif -- wall-to-wall s---." The Super isn't that bad, but sometimes it comes close.