Stars: Michael Chiklis, Gary Groomes and Ray Sharkey
Theaters: Annex and Spectrum
Rating: R (language, drug use)
Quality: 1 star(on a scale of zero to five stars)
As a film biography, "Wired," the fast-and-loose story
of gonzo comic actor John Belushi's highly charged life
and death, generates very little electricity. As a work
of narrative filmmaking, it short-circuits entirely.
This controversial movie, roughly based on Washington Post
journalist Bob Woodward's book and made against the wishes
People are also reading…
of Belushi's family and friends, adds nothing to our understanding
of what caused the brilliant Belushi's star to flame out
at the tragically early age of 33.
Part of the problem here has to do with the movie's amazingly
weird narrative structure, which has the freshly dead Belushi's
spirit rising from his corpse in the morgue and strolling
through a strange retrospective of his life, accompanied
by an wiseguy Latino cab driver. It's a technique that was
used with equally embarrassing results by Richard Pryor
in his 1986 film autobiography, "JoJo Dancer, Your Life
Perhaps a more central problem is that the real Belushi
and his often brilliant work are still fresh in our memories.
He made his first movie in 1976 and died in 1982. His best
formative work on "Saturday Night Live" is still available
every night on cable television's Nickelodeon station.
A good portion of the film's stroll down memory lane attempts
to recreate some of the Belushi-Dan Aykroyd SNL routines,
and they look pale by comparison with the real things.
Michael Chiklis, the actor who plays Belushi, strives mightily
to capture the frantic spirit of the man. He does a creditable
enough job, but it smacks more of an impersonation than
a full-bodied portrayal. All-in-all, his Belushi emerges
as an obnoxious, selfish, manic bully who was thoroughly
lacking in focus or discipline.
The story trots out, in thin disguise, many of the principal
players in Belushi's life. Gary Groomes contributes a flattering
but flat portrayal of Aykroyd. J.T. Walsh turns in a priggish
and tight-lipped turn as Woodward. Patti D'Arbanville gives
her role as Cathy Smith, Belushi's unwitting executioner,
a saucy twist. Lucinda Jenney has the movie's only truly
sympathetic role as the comic's long-suffering widow.
It's all faithful to Woodward's relentlessly detailed and
clinical book. But as biography, it's lifeless and uninspired.
Worst of all, director Larry Peerce ("Goodbye, Columbus")
and screenwriter Earl Mac Rauch ("Buckaroo Banzai") don't
seem to have the slightest idea of what made the anarchic
Belushi uniquely funny. They seem more interested in delving
into the sordid aspects of his life and the details of his
drug habit than on the psychological mechanisms that made
this squat, homely little man such a mischievously lovable,
and ultimately tragic, comic.
Too bad. There's certainly a lesson to be learned by Belushi's
short-and-sweet life. "Wired" should generate a real emotional
bang, but all it gives off is a pathetic whimper.