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Film review: Tune in Tomorrow . . .

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 6 1990 12:00 a.m. MST

Hot on the heels of "White Palace" comes yet another May-December romance . . . or perhaps it's a May-October romance.

Barbara Hershey finds herself romanced by and falling for much-younger Keanu Reeves in "Tune in Tomorrow . . .," an offbeat little comedy set in New Orleans during the 1950s.

But unlike the serious soap-opera overtones given "White Palace," "Tune in Tomorrow . . ." is intended as whimsy — and even makes fun of soap opera plotting along the way.

Hershey is the prodigal aunt who sets the story in motion. Twice divorced, 36 years old and leaving the big city to come back to her hometown, aware that she doesn't quite fit in, Hershey is not really ready for the attentions of her 21-year-old nephew, Reeves.

Of course, we eventually find that he's not really her nephew, unless you count twice-removed and then only by marriage.

Reeves is the news writer for a small radio station whose big draw is a daily live soap opera. Somehow the station manages to hire a big-name writer for the soap, played by Peter Falk as an eccentric's eccentric.

Falk is given to insulting a particular nationality wherever he goes, in this case Albanians. So he sprinkles insults to Albanians throughout his scripts. But he's not satisfied to simply rile up a certain segment of the population. In order to offend everyone, he begins an incestuous plot in the soap opera.

Reeves, who has romantic notions of running off to Paris and writing a great novel while living on the Left Bank, seeks out Falk's friendship. But before long, Falk is not only using Reeves' blossoming relationship with Hershey as a soap opera plot, he's actually manipulating them to act out the story he wants to write.

Some of this is quirky and warm and amusing, and Falk in particular seems to be having a great time in his role. At other times jokes and comic twists just drop with a thud. And some of the bad taste is not funny — it's just bad taste, as with a running gag about a radio actor's particular foray into method acting.

And except for such moments, this could easily be a made-for-TV movie.

The film sets up its overly cutesy tone with the credits being read aloud rather than printed on the screen (Henry Gibson, as a radio veteran, provides this bit of business). And particularly uneven are the broadly played fantasies of Falk's mind as he writes his soap opera, with characters played by John Larroquette, Elizabeth McGovern, Buck Henry, Hope Lange, Peter Gallagher and Dan Hedaya.

But it must be said that Hershey, Reeves and especially Falk deliver lively performances that make the proceedings frequently much more enjoyable than they deserve to be.

If you can overlook its faults and lapses in taste, you may have some mild fun. Too bad it has to be a matter of "settling for" instead of simply "enjoying."

"Tune in Tomorrow . . ." is rated PG-13 for sex, profanity, vulgarity and violence.

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