If you liked the demystification of the hero in Unforgiven, you might enjoy this comedy with the same general theme written by the same screenwriter, David Webb Peoples, from a story he authored with Laura Ziskin and Alvin Sargent, directed with appropriate speed and cynicism by Stephen Frears. A small-time crook (Dustin Hoffman) on his way to the clink saves the lives of 54 passengers trapped inside a crashed plane, and a homeless derelict (Andy Garcia) decides to impersonate him in order to collect a million-dollar reward. Basically this is enjoyable Capracorn with a few dashes of Preston Sturgesthree parts Meet John Doe (with Geena Davis taking over the Barbara Stanwyck part of caustic star reporter) to two parts Hail the Conquering Heroand Hoffman extracts all the juicy ham he can out of it. The scattershot satire about the media suffers from overkill (though Chevy Chase is effective in an unbilled part as a hard-nosed editor), the movie as a whole has a slightly archaic feel (not surprising inasmuch as it’s largely built on situations and characters half a century old), and in spots there’s an irritating sentimentality and complacency about its own attack on sentimentality and complacency. But the basic messagethat heroism is a kind of role-playing created by the media for the gulliblecertainly comes across, and there’s lots of fun as well as bitter wisdom extracted from the premise. With Joan Cusack, Kevin J. O’Connor, Maury Chaykin, and Stephen Tobolowsky. (JR)

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