24 August 2003 | britishdominion
High Concept, CAA-style!
Ivan Reitman, fresh off the special effects high of "Ghostbusters" takes on romantic comedy that works in fits and starts in "LEGAL EAGLES".
Robert Redford, with breezy style, is a NYC D.A. who prosecutes at whim. Enter Debra Winger, a scrappy lawyer so desperate, she once chose to put a dog on the stand to make her case. The two fall in love (or about as 80's as it gets - they become partners) in representing an airy client (Daryl Hannah) who may (or may not) have committed a major art fraud/crime.
This is a time-capsule of a film... written by the guys who wrote "Top Gun" and "Dick Tracy", it's a big, over-packaged film that's both romantic comedy, star-vehicle, and glossy, synthetic who-done-it. All the Reitman glitz-and-polish is there (with big setpieces scattered throughout), and the movie is easy on the eyes, especially with Redford's easy, casual performance pulling the viewer along and Reitman's deft comedic touch.
It was also a troubled production to be sure: Bill Murray was once considered for the Winger role, creating a love triangle that would have found Hannah torn between the Sundance Kid and Nick The Lounge Singer - but alas, Murray opted out. In interviews long since the film's release, Winger claims no desire ever to work with Reitman again.
1986's "LEGAL EAGLES" is probably the textbook case of the all-powerful talent agency known as Creative Artists Agency packaging a Real Motion Picture - what industry wags call a "filmed-deal". But is Legal Eagles any good? Sure, I guess. It's competently directed, it makes great use of it's New York City art-world locales, it has a wonderful Elmer Bernstein score, great cinematography by the legendary Laszlo Kovacs and both Winger and Hannah make for delicious eye-candy when pared with Redford. Ultimately, it becomes systematic of what was askew in these "packages": the movie relies solely on the audience goodwill, fine craftsmanship and former successes of its primary players to carry the load. "LEGAL EAGLES" is by no means a failure, but wrapped in such a glossy serving, it's hard to really enjoy anymore than for its quick, empty calories.
I have a soft spot for this film - it's great to see Redford on screen seeming to have such a spirited good time after an absence from movie comedy for a number of years - but after all is said and done, "LEGAL EAGLES" is as enjoyable as a Big Mac, albeit one served on a fine china dinner plate.
PS - the TV version of this film has a curious, bizarre alternate ending which negates the whole court case!