John Lithgow plays a great writer — we know he’s supposed to be great because, early on in The Last Elephant, someone says to someone else, ”You must read his novels — they’re so meaningful.” (Nothing could make me want to read a novel less than a recommendation like that.)
One day Lithgow dispatches a photographer to Africa to snap some pictures of elephants — it’s research for a book he’s writing. The photographer is killed, and Lithgow, who’s deathly afraid of flying, flies to Africa to search for the murderer.
I know, I know: Why didn’t Lithgow just look at elephant pictures in a book, or call the National Audubon Society, which coproduced this dreadful TV movie? Why didn’t he stay in America and let the African police find the killer? After all, the police chief there is James Earl Jones, and who’s more responsible than James Earl Jones?
But Lithgow has to go to Africa so he can meet and fall in love with Isabella Rossellini, a research scientist who likes to get out the soap and lather up cute baby elephants whenever she isn’t working Lithgow into a romantic lather.
There’s a subplot about ivory-hunters who kill all the beautiful elephants for their tusks, but it keeps getting in the way of Lithgow and Rosellini’s nuzzling and Jones’ glorified cameo role. The Last Elephant is also chock-full of dumb dialogue. ”I want out of this,” Lithgow says. ”I should be back at my desk, cranking out a chapter a day.” A chapter a day? No wonder this guy had time to go to Africa. He must write a book a week. D