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Big Shot: Into the Night

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Ed (Jeff Goldblum) can’t sleep. He takes to driving the LA night to calm his nerves and ends up chauffeuring Diana (Michelle Pfeiffer), a gorgeous blonde all over town. She’s on the run with a pouch full of  invaluable jewels and takes him along for a wild ride. Into the Night, directed by John Landis, has all the ingredients to be a really great oddball romantic comedy in the vein of Married to the Mob or Prelude to a Kiss. A crazy cast full of cameos from your favorite weirdos playing the quirkiest versions of themselves, a far-fetched plot leaving lots of opportunity for adventure, and even an original song written just for the film by B. B. King! Alas… Into the Night takes all these elements and squanders them.

The first problem is that Goldblum and Pfeiffer have no chemistry. How is this possible? They are two of the more attractive leading actors of their generation at the height of their sexiness, but somehow they just can’t connect. It’s like they are in different movies. Jeff Goldblum is rightfully a bit bored with the 2-dimensionality of his character. Every 20 minutes or so, he offers a weak, “I can’t take this wild goose chase anymore,” but is lured back into the action ostensibly by Pfeiffer’s allure, though if he’s interested in her, he sure doesn’t show it.  Pfeiffer’s equally underserved with Diana (“like the princess”), who is pretty but clueless. There are some intimations that she is supposed to be a moral wild card who has a shady history with men, but those never really pay off. Although neither one of them exhibit any romantic interest in the other, the film sticks them together in a smug and totally unearned sweeping ending. It doesn’t quite reach 50 Shades of Grey levels of non-chemistry, but true love sure seems like a long shot.

This bullshit ending is not the only hooey going on plot-wise. Another major problem is that despite all the swirling intrigue surrounding this pouch-of-jewels McGuffin, Maltese Falcon-style, there is very little action and few threats. It’s a wonder the film runs for as long as it does. Aside from a spaced-out Bowie, Roger Vadim fighting to stay awake, and a parade of bumbling Iranian terrorists (played for maximal racist humor by Landis himself in full ‘Middle Eastern’ makeup throwing the odd yiddish word in amongst the incomprehensible gibberish), this couple doesn’t truly seem to have any enemies. Why they keep zig-zagging all over Los Angeles is beyond comprehension.

Let’s be clear – this is not a film that merits serious critical consideration. Intellectualizing it quickly only leads to depressing realizations. Into the Night is John Landis’ pointless exercise in post-Trading Places self-indulgence. Outside our main pair swirls a parade of welcome cameos – Dan Akroyd, David Bowie, Vera Miles, Roger Vadim, David Cronenberg, Amy Heckerling, Paul Mazursky, and even Paul Bartel – giving the entire production an overwhelming air of being a game of Hollywood inside baseball.

However, among the rubble, there are moments of charm. Of course there are! Even when he’s phoning it in, Jeff Goldblum’s self-aware acting style seduces (the thinking man’s Nicolas Cage). And although the two of them may not have hit it off, Michelle Pfieffer’s Diana seems fun and looks great. If only the whole movie was as good as the scenes in that pimped out Elvis-themed 50s Caddy. If it had a heart (or luck)this is the kind of movie that would drum up a cult following through forced exposure. If it had been picked up by Comedy Central for syndication in the 1990s, any one of us could easily have formed a sentimental fondness to our half-memories of it. Low-pressure circumstances and half-attentive viewing do Into The Night a great service. Catching it on cable also means we’d have a pretty good chance of missing the horrible BB King theme song.