Owen Gleiberman
August 27, 1993 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Wilder Napalm

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
performer
Arliss Howard, Dennis Quaid, Debra Winger
director
Glenn Gordon Caron
distributor
TriStar Pictures
author
Vince Gilligan
genre
Sci-fi and Fantasy, Comedy

We gave it an C

Okay, here’s the weird part. Wilder and Wallace (Arliss Howard and Dennis Quaid), the Foudroyant brothers, have shared a spectacular ability ever since childhood: They can both make objects burst into flames telekinetically. Wilder thinks his power is a nuisance, a curse; he spends his days clerking at the Foto Kwik booth of an empty shopping center. Wallace, on the other hand, dreams of appearing on the David Letterman show as ”Dr. Napalm.”

Now here’s the really weird part. Wilder is married to Vida (Debra Winger), a sexually insatiable redhead who dresses entirely in chartreuse and is under a year-long house arrest for arson. Wallace, in a jealous fit, burned off all of Wilder’s hair the night before his wedding. Now, after five years, Wallace has ridden into town with the circus to challenge his brother for the hand of the woman they both love.

If you’ve been longing to see a cross between Sam Shepard’s True West and Stephen King’s Firestarter melted down into a surreal sitcom, then Wilder Napalm is the movie for you. The central question raised by this strenuously gonzo comedy isn’t ”Who’s gonna get the girl?” It’s ”Who on earth green-lighted this project?” Still, considering what a sky-high folly it is, Wilder Napalm is oddly watchable. Winger, once again, proves she’s the most sensual actress around (and also the one with the worst taste in roles). Quaid tosses off insults with hambone enthusiasm, and Howard has a Charles Grodinesque super-dweeb charisma. If only the movie didn’t keep piling on telekinetic explosions. As a metaphor — however ironic — for grand passion, fire begins to lose its sexy luster when it’s reduced to a repetitive special-effects bonanza. C

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