UNSTRUNG HEROES. Directed by Diane Keaton; written by Richard LaGravenese; produced by Susan Arnold and Donna Roth for Hollywood Pictures. Starring Nathan Watt, John Turturro, Andie McDowell, Michael Richards and Maury Chaykin. Rated PG-13 (language, intense situations).
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Unstrung Heroes is both less and more than it at first appears.
If you're a fan of TV's "Seinfeld," and have seen the ads for the movie featuring Richards (who is Kramer on the popular series), then you'll know to expect some expert physical comedy.
If you've heard that Heroes is a weeper about a dying mother (McDowell), well, that's right, too (my 2 Kleenexes were not enough). And since the main character is a boy of 12, you have to think: "coming of age story."
For better or worse, Unstrung Heroes is all of these things. And it does a fairly good job at all of them. The problem is, not everyone likes all those kinds of movies. Even if you don't, though, you might want to give it a look (or at least keep it in mind for a rental in a few months). Because, at least occasionally, it succeeds in becoming greater than the sum of its parts.
It is a bit too slow-moving, and is pretty seriously unfocused most of the time. But the cast is really excellent. Watt, as Steven, the young man at the center, is appealing and believeable, and not at all too cute or too knowing for his age.
The really unstrung ones of the title are Richards and Chaykin, as Steven's more than just normally eccentric uncles. In addition to being funny, though, they manage to also be sympathetic, fully-realized characters. They're a treat to watch.
McDowell does a much better job than you might expect with the difficult job of the mother. She keeps the movie from being any mushier than it has to be, and gives the parents in the audience plenty to think about.
But in a lot of ways, Turturro, as the father, is the most interesting character of all. He's a little odd, to be sure, but not nearly as crazy as we're used to seeing him. And particularly not compared to his brothers. He's interesting, though, because his relationships with his various family members are so complex and because he handles them in a completely believeable way.
Unstrung Heroes, in the end, is a lot like its novice director, Keaton—a bit unstrung herself, but thoughtful and entertaining, too.
October 11, 1995