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Film review: Career Opportunities

Published: Friday, April 5 1991 12:00 a.m. MST

John Hughes is an incredibly prolific filmmaker, and while he's had his share of ups and downs, when he's on the mark — as with "Home Alone" — he's really on the mark.

But when he misses — as with "Career Opportunities" — boy, does he ever miss.

In fact, I would dare say "Career Opportunities," which was originally scheduled for release last summer, might still be languishing on the shelf were it not for the success of "Home Alone."

Frank Whaley, who may currently be seen as a band member in "The Doors," is most unremarkable here as a 21-year-old Walter Mitty, living in a small town where he rightfully has the reputation of being the town liar. He's also held more jobs in the past couple of years than most people do in a lifetime.

Whaley plays the role with some relish, but his mannerisms reminded me so much of Tom Hanks I began to wonder if he wasn't purposely parodying him.

As the film begins, Whaley is fired from yet another job and has reached a pinnacle of sorts since every place of employment in town has let him go — except the local Target variety store, apparently the Midwest equivalent of K mart or ShopKo or Fred Meyer.

After he's hired (by an unbilled John Candy) as "night cleanup boy," his boss locks him in the store for the night. Naturally, he spends more time skating, eating from the candy rack, watching TV and playing stereos than cleaning up — in an endless string of music videos that dominate the film.

Eventually, he discovers that he's not the only one in the store. The town's poor little rich girl (Jennifer Connelly) has been shoplifting (to get attention from her neglectful father, as if you didn't know) and is also locked in.

Connelly ignored Whaley back in high school but, of course, they hit it off and perform even more music videos together in the store — and make plans to run off together with the $52,000 she just happens to have tucked away in her purse.

Just as naturally, a pair of dumb thieves (Dermot and Kieran Mulroney) break into the store and it's up to Whaley and Connelly to save the day — and themselves. This element is much less acceptable as a comedy device here than in "Home Alone"; these guys brandish guns threateningly and, despite giggling incessantly, are not funny.)

Aside from the interminable music videos, set to a constant, very loud Top-40 soundtrack, much of the film is so surrealistic and weird that you may think certain scenes are meant to be of daydreams.

First-time director Bryan Gordon, working from Hughes' script, is unable to keep the thin storyline afloat for feature length and seems more interested in finding various ways to photograph Connelly's body than in telling a story. He also allows the actors to play their characters so broadly that the movie takes on a cartoonishness from which it never recovers.

What is most amazing about this movie is how many of its ideas seem to be gleaned from Hughes' earlier, better films, including obvious thefts from "Home Alone," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "The Breakfast Club," "Some Kind of Wonderful" and "Pretty in Pink." (Not to mention Jerry Lewis' "Who's Minding the Store?")

This incredible lack of originality, however, could be forgiven, at least in part, if the movie were at all funny.

It is not.

I suppose even a hitmaker like John Hughes is entitled to a failure every now and then. My guess is, however, that he would have preferred to see this one remain on the shelf — or at least head into video obscurity a bit more quietly.

"Career Opportunities" is rated PG-13 for considerable vulgarity and profanity, as well as a surprising amount of violence.

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