Winona Ryder, a fine young actress who has shown her stuff in "Heathers" and "Great Balls of Fire," has the lead role in "Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael," and is the best thing about the movie.
In fact, her sensitive portrayal of a teenage girl who feels abandoned, unloved and unwanted seems at odds with the film's frivolous treatment of far too many subjects.The title character - Roxy Carmichael - is talked about but never shown, a presence looming over the movie, providing the catharsis for, but never participating in, its action.
She is the prodigal daughter who has left her small hometown of Clyde, Ohio, and made good, though the reason for her fame is left a mystery until about halfway through the film. Occasionally she is shown on screen - but never her face - in dreamy slow-motion sequences that display the opulence in which she lives as she swims nude in her pool or packs for her trip back home.
Meanwhile, in Clyde, the town is going nuts preparing for her return, with all kinds of kitschy celebrations planned, her old house being decorated as a shrine and old friends and rivals comparing nostalgic notes.
Those moments that lampoon celebrity obsession are sometimes very funny, but they seem to be throwaway gags in between the coming-of-age melodrama, which, despite Ryder's excellent central performance, seem contrived and silly.
Ryder's character is named Dinky . . . . What else? She's adopted, with cartoonish parents, so she adopts three dogs, a pig, a goat and a cat as her "family," keeping them at a secret Noah's ark she's building.
There's also a subplot about Roxy Carmichael's former boyfriend (Jeff Daniels), who is so excited about her coming back to town that he alienates his wife and children.
From him, Dinky learns that Roxy gave birth 15 years earlier and she becomes convinced that Roxy is her mother and is coming to take her away from all this.
If the plotting here sounds complicated, it is - unnecessarily. There are a couple of solid laughs, but the schizophrenic nature of the film is never resolved and the result is a bag that is far too mixed. (It was written by first-time screenwriter Karen Leigh Hopkins and marks the first solo directing effort from Jim Abrahams, co-director of "Airplane!")
Dinky reminded me quite a bit of Liza Minnelli's character in the 1969 movie "The Sterile Cuckoo," in which she played a shy, lonely college freshman who was a misfit. That character's name was also rather cutesy - Pookie. A coincidence?
"Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael" is rated PG-13 for nudity, sex, profanity, vulgarity, violence.