TEDDY BEARS' PICNIC

NR
Reviews

No, Teddy Bears' Picnic is not all bad. The script's basic premise, in fact, is a good one: to satirize that peculiar breed of preening white males--top executives in the worlds of business, government, sports and entertainment--who flock together once a year in a hidden mountain retreat to secretly engage in a series of silly rituals and elaborate pageantry (and a lot of serious drinking), to celebrate the fact that they were all granted their chief wish in life: to grow up to be little boys.

Teddy Bears' Picnic also scores favorably for having brought together some exceptionally fine--and often underemployed--comic actors. Heading the cast are Henry Gibson, playing a sly 83-year-old mogul; George Wendt, as a sputteringly incompetent Air Force general; Alan Thicke as himself (isn't he always?); Fred Willard as a wacky U.S. senator; Kenneth Mars as a bad-tempered industrialist and Bob Einstein as his put-upon son; Howard Hesseman as the stage director who gamely puts together the 'Frolicks,' a campy annual entertainment for the guys; and Michael McKean as the university professor who was elected 'patriarch' of the week-long retreat at Zambesi Glen, a plush resort in the mountains of central California. Females are glimpsed only briefly; they appear as executive wives (Morgan Fairchild), call girls (Annabelle Gurwitch), and a sprightly TV newscaster (Ming Na), who's married to one of the more sensible retreat participants (John Michael Higgins) and who also works with a slick local TV anchorman (John O'Hurley) who's eager to break a story about what really goes on every year up at Zambesi Glen. Filling out the huge cast are Harry Shearer (the film's writer, director and executive producer) playing a Basil Fawlty-like maitre d', and his two lackadaisical waiters, Justin Kirk and Travis Wester--one of whom sets off what lamely passes for this movie's plot dilemma.

All of the above are given crisply crafted dialogue--some of which does rise to the level of sharp topical satire. But Teddy Bears' Picnic never goes anywhere. It can't; there are just too many characters saying too many clever things and getting into too many pointless situations. Where's the movie here? What this looks like is an elaborate and expensive excuse for Shearer (a truly talented fellow) to invite a lot of his performer pals up to a mountain lodge for a few weeks to have a wild and crazy time. Sorry to spoil the fun, but it's bad news, Bears.

--Shirley Sealy