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July 30, 2018

Movie Review: Year of the Comet (1992)

Directed by Peter Yates

Movie review by Greg Goodsell

in•sip•id, (inˈsipid), Adjective: insipid. Lacking flavor. Synonyms: Tasteless, flavorless, bland, weak, wishy-washy; Unappetizing, unpalatable. Lacking vigor or interest. Synonyms: unimaginative, uninspired, uninspiring, characterless, flat, uninteresting, lackluster, dull, drab, boring, dry, humdrum, ho-hum, monochrome, tedious, uneventful, run-of-the-mill, commonplace, pedestrian, trite, tired, hackneyed, stale, lame, wishy-washy, colorless, anemic, lifeless

Margaret Harwood (Penelope Ann Miller) is a young, industrious wine fanatic worked to the bone by her father’s rare wine company. At an exclusive wine tasting event, she meets cute with wisecracking American wastrel Oliver Plexico (Tim Daly). Finally given the chance to prove her acumen by securing a rare, $1 million dollar bottle of wine in Scotland. As fate would have it, Plexico is assigned to be her factotum on the mission and so the chance for romantic sparks fly ever upward. Ever suave and villainous Philippe (Louis Jordan) and his henchmen want that bottle as well, and so efforts to transport the flagon hit various rough patches.

Let’s see: Oliver tries unsuccessfully to commandeer a helicopter along the way, leading to hilarity. Oliver gets kicked in the nuts a lot, leading to hilarity. Penelope is all flustered with her hunk companion and she grows ever more enchanted with his muscles. Oliver gets kicked in the nuts again, the bad guys wind up getting killed, and lots of hilarity ensues. Make it all the way through, it’s only 90 minutes long, and you will find out all the international skullduggery and intrigue would be rendered moot with the invention of Viagra of few years later!

Okay, so maybe your mom liked it. While Year of the Comet has some serious talent working behind the lens: William Goldman the screenwriter behind Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1968) wrote the screenplay, and Peter Yates of the iconic Bullit (also 1968) director joined forces, but the results? See the first paragraph.

The romantic leads are likable enough, but both Miller and Daly went on to do very little afterwards. Miller, with her fiery red locks and fair complexion calls to mind Molly Ringwald, who at that time in her career was no longer Hollywood’s darling. Daly, with his chiseled physique and athletic moments of derring do – one of the film’s best scenes has him dangling from a hillside in an attempt to rescue Miller, is compared to Errol Flynn at one point. My money is on Tom Selleck, with Daly’s harried delivery and flustered, aw shucks demeanor.

One thing that stood out about The Year of the Comet was its modest scale. While it has a few thrill scenes such as the helicopter chase, an awful lot of action transpires on interior movie sets. Given the fact that neither Daly and Miller were ever top-tier stars, the film comes off as overly modest and low budget, not helped with but a very predictable script. Julie Kirgo, in her notes to this Twilight Time release does note that the film was not a success, and it’s easy to see why. The average moviegoer was lured into paying for a motion picture and got an extended episode of “Magnum P.I.” instead.

I was willing to give the movie a pass until the very last scene, where Goldman pulled out all the stops to make sure that this was the happiest of all happiest endings. Extremely contrived and heavy handed, you can’t fail the film for trying to send the audience out with a smile on their face, but a lot of the last minute revelations wouldn’t sit well with a 1930’s melodrama.

Anyone with a spare 90 minutes could do a lot worse than Year of the Comet, but be warned: This film gives new definition to the term “light entertainment.”

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