(1994) Cast: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, James Garner.
Director: Richard Donner.
Maverick, the big screen revision of the classic 1950ís TV western that brought stardom to James Garner, was named one of the worst films of 1994 by Entertainment Weekly, but it isnít quite that bad. For the most part, it's an entertaining romp, although it is never as good as its potential.
Mel Gibson, who inherits Garnerís role of gambler Bret Maverick, can seem a bit too self-impressed at times, winking at the audience to suggest heís being amusing even when heís not and occasionally threatening to be as manic as Robin Williams, but when he is amusing, heís almost as good as Garner himself who appears in the film as lawman Zane Cooper. It is Garner who has the filmís funniest scene. When, providing security at the high stakes poker game that highlights the climax, Garner shows himself to be a fast draw but a dangerously clumsy one, as well.
If Gibson and Garner are naturals at the tongue-in-cheek humor in William Goldmanís screenplay, Jodie Foster, the two time Oscar winner, is not. The overly serious actress just doesnít seem able to relax, and lacks the kind of charm necessary to pull off the femme fatale role sheís been given. Although there is plenty of charm and wit on hand in Maverick, there are also too many drawn out scenes in which the humor is so labored that itís embarrassing. A lengthy segment featuring Graham Greene as an Indian content to enact stereotypes to indulge the white folks even though he knows they arenít based in reality, would have been better left on the cutting room floor.
One of the best scenes has shades of the "waxworks" segment in Billy Wilderís Sunset Boulevard. The stars of such long ago TV westerns as Laramie, Laredo, and The Virginian turn up at the climactic poker game. Robert Fuller, William Smith, and the late Doug McClure are all on hand in director Richard Donnerís tribute to these western stars who, at one time, were as familiar to audiences as Gibson and Garner continue to be today. If Maverick did nothing more than to pay homage to the fictional western heroes of the past, it would be well worth the viewerís time. As it is, it also has enough humor and action to get by on its own merits.
Brian W. Fairbanks
© Copyright 1999, Brian W. Fairbanks. All Rights Reserved.
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