Film review: Where the Money Is

Published: Friday, April 21 2000 9:37 p.m. MDT

Most of today's young actors could take a few tips from a crafty old pro like Paul Newman.

For one thing, though he's well into his 70s, Newman can still turn on enough charm to make you believe that a movie is better than it is, simply because he's in it — like "Where the Money Is," for example.

Don't be fooled. Even Newman can't completely salvage this misfire, which lacks the laughs and thrills necessary for such a risky movie hybrid (based on its premise, the film could claim to be a dark comic caper, though just barely).

If that isn't bad, the film also throws in an unfortunate nod (or passing reference, to be more accurate) to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" near the end, which only serves as a reminder of how good Newman can be with truly great material.

Newman isn't the only one wasting his time here, though. "Where the Money Is" somehow manages to squander the talents of Linda Fiorentino, who stars as Carol McKay, an Oregon retirement-home nurse who's grown bored with her humdrum existence.

This former prom queen is looking for thrills, which her unambitious husband Wayne (Delmot Mulroney) hasn't been able to provide for quite some time.

Enter Henry Manning (Newman), a bank robber who winds up at the retirement home. Having finally been nabbed for one of his crimes, Henry has faked a recent stroke in order to be transferred to a less-secure facility.

He may have fooled the doctors and the cops, but he can't fool Carol, who pegs him as a faker pretty quickly. She threatens to reveal his secret unless he helps her pull off a daring armored car robbery.

However, they need at least one other person to pull off the crime, and the only one available is Wayne, who's getting jealous of the attention his wife pays to her elderly partner-in-crime.

You'd think that might be a great premise to work with, but the whole thing is directed with little energy (by Marek Kanievska, of "Less Than Zero" fame), and what few camera innovations there are seem like showing off.

Not that the flat script (by two different screenwriting teams) is all that great to begin with. Also, Mark Isham's irritating score continually hammers home the point that the film is supposed to be "wacky," even at the most inappropriate moments.

Still, it's great just to see Newman on the big screen again, and he and Fiorentino have more chemistry than you'd suspect. They're also likable enough to make you wish the material and the rest of the cast were this good.

In particular, Mulroney is too bland even for what's supposed to be a "boring" part.

"Where the Money Is" is rated PG-13 for scattered profanity, simulated sex (largely overheard) and some crude double-entendres and vulgar humor. Running time: 89 minutes.

You can reach Jeff Vice by e-mail at jeff@desnews.com