Film review: Pink Cadillac

Published: Saturday, June 17 1989 12:00 a.m. MDT

Every so often Clint Eastwood decides to stop playing "Dirty Harry," all those pseudo-"Dirty Harry" characters and Western anti-heroes to do a comedy. Why? Probably because two of his biggest hits were comedies — "Every Which Way But Loose" and "Any Which Way You Can."

The latter film was directed by Buddy Van Horn in labored, good-ol'-boy fashion, and car crashes and orangutans figured prominently.

"Pink Cadillac," also directed by Van Horn, is the same kind of dumb comedy, minus the orangutan. And in many ways it strangely resembles another Eastwood movie, "The Gauntlet."

Like "The Gauntlet," "Pink Cadillac" has Eastwood tracking down a woman and taking her on the road to bring her to justice as the bad guys chase after them. This time Eastwood is a skip-tracer, bringing back those who have jumped bail. Bernadette Peters is the fugitive in question, an innocent woman with an 8-month-old baby who is taking the rap for her husband.

So Eastwood, who nabs bad guys by disguising himself as caricatures — a radio deejay, a rodeo clown, a casino operator — heads for Reno to nab Peters, who has stolen her husband's pink Cadillac and headed to Nevada to leave her baby safely with her sister. Naturally, her sob story gets to Eastwood, and though Peters is married, they fall in love.

What neither of them knows is that the Caddy is loaded with more than horsepower. It contains $250,000, the bankroll for a white supremacist group Peters' husband belongs to.

Aside from the fact that the movie is loaded with stupid gags that fall flat and violence that is overwrought and a kidnap-the-baby plot that seems really wrong-headed, it's hard to recall a movie with more loose ends than this one.

For example, the husband is played as a naive victim himself, one who really doesn't want to belong to this racist organization but who hasn't the strength to get out. Yet, in the end, he is never satisfactorily dealt with.

Then there's Eastwood's hippie friend, played by Geoffrey Lewis, who is left for dead when his place is blown up. We see him escape the fire, but since he's in the middle of nowhere, how does he get away — or does he get away?

And how about all those bad guys? Can Eastwood and Peters really just ride away in the sunset? If the racists are as organized and nasty as we've been led to believe, won't they come down off their mountain and chase the Caddy down the highway?

It's as if, somewhere along the way, the screenwriter (first-timer John Eskow) was told the bad guys can't be killed and the husband can't be dealt with because this is a comedy and Clint has to get the girl — even if she's married.

Probably the worst aspect, however, is a problem common to many Eastwood movies — it's far too long. Just over two hours, in fact. There are scenes that play out and then just keep on playing anyway. And the film takes forever getting to the main plot.

Pacing is everything in a film like this — remember, it's supposed to be a comedy! But it's so sluggish you'd never know it.

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Yet, if I may paraphrase a line from "A Fish Called Wanda" — calling "Pink Cadillac" dumb is an insult to dumb movies.

It's rated PG-13, which seems rather tame considering all the mayhem going on, along with profanity, vulgarity, sex, partial nudity and drug use.