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L.A. STORY. Directed by Mick Jackson; written by Steve Martin; produced by Daniel Melnick & Michael Rachmil. Starring Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant and Sara Jessica Parker. Rated PG-13.


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L.A. Story is like the California scenes in Annie Hall expanded to a full-length movie. Its satire of America's most easily satirized metropolis is gentle and good- natured, but it sports some wickedly funny dialogue.

There are two or three really great characterizations in the movie as well. But its generous serving of poetic whimsy sets it apart from the ultra-realistic comedies we usually see on the big screen.

Harris (Martin) is a TV weatherman whose goofy newshour antics are a contrast to his off-screen manner, which is reflective and slightly melancholy. He's stuck in a going-nowhere (but really funny) relationship with Trudi (Marilu Henner) and he's uncomfortable with the demands of his status as celebrity kook. His hobby is roller-skating through museums.

Sara (Tennant) is a visiting British journalist who is refreshingly down-to-earth in a city full of airheads. With a little help from a freeway-sign oracle, she and Harris pursue a somewhat bumpy road to romance.

Along the way Harris is distracted by the oddly spelled but delightfully zany SanDeE (Parker), who steals not only the scenes she's in but almost the whole movie.

The Martin we've come to expect lately—funny on the outside, yearning on the inside (see Roxanne)—is the persona we see in L.A. Story. Both as a writer and as an actor, he can poke fun at the most absurd behaviors in an affectionate way that is most appealing. He has the best lines in L.A. Story, and he performs them well.

Sara is a less successful character; Tennant's at her best, it seems, as a villainous sort (as in All of Me) rather than as an ingenue. But she's pretty and makes a good straight man for Martin in most of their scenes.

L.A. Story won't become a classic screen comedy, but it does have some classic scenes. And the beauty is that it all seems like an inside joke, but everyone can get it anyway. Whether we've ever been to the city of angels or not, all moviegoers have to feel somewhat at home there.

February 20, 1991

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