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Film review: Stuart Saves His Family

Published: Friday, May 26 1995 12:00 a.m. MDT

I must confess that I went into "Stuart Saves His Family" prepared to dislike it intensely. Generally I'm able to avoid such preconceived prejudices, but being familiar with Al Franken's "Saturday Night Live" character Stuart Smalley, I was not looking forward to more than 90 minutes of his whining and smarmy self-help advice, however satirically intended it may be.

To my surprise, however, "Stuart" turns out to be thoughtful and occasionally serious, as the character tries to help the various members of his dysfunctional family and, in particular, to save his father from his alcoholism. (The conclusion to this latter plot element is surprisingly realistic.)

There is also one hilarious sequence, as another "Saturday Night Live" player, Julia Sweeney, has an extended cameo as an insecure, overly apologetic guest on Stuart's cable television program.

But in general, the film is uneven and its shifts from poignancy to drama to goofy comedy are a bit too stark. Director Harold Ramis ("Groundhog Day") and Franken, who wrote the script, do manage to give Stuart some dimension, however, and though he still seems like a skit (and shtick) character in places, he is also quite affecting.