You know you’re watching a bogus movie when a character acts out her unhappiness by scarfing a late-night pint of designer ice cream. The Ben & Jerry’s bingefest has become our official signifier of yuppie angst — a culturally approved way of saying you’re miserable and tasteful at the same time. Imagine a romantic comedy made up entirely of yuppie signifiers (including that ice cream number), and you’ve got Forget Paris, in which Billy Crystal, as a feisty pro-basketball referee, and Debra Winger, as a sweetly accommodating airline official, meet cute in Paris, get hitched, see their marriage sandbagged by a series of fashionably contempo relationship disorders — and never convince you for a moment that they’re playing anything but glib concoctions. Directed by Crystal, from a script he cowrote with Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, Forget Paris bounces along with bright, cheery proficiency, and there are a few laughs in it, but it’s the kind of skin-crawling comedy in which cliches are used to convey ”meaningful” experience.
How do we know Mickey (Crystal) and Ellen (Winger) are falling for each other? Because Mickey demonstrates his lovable sense of humor by tossing off one-liners that make him sound like a silicon-chip Woody Allen. Because they visit the Eiffel Tower, pass a black guy playing the saxophone, and stop under the moonlight, where Mickey breaks into a passionate chorus of ”Love Is Here to Stay.” At this point it may occur to you that the only person left in the world who still finds Billy Crystal unbearably charming is Billy Crystal himself. Forget Paris has been shaped to make him cuddly and funny and wise, never more so than in the basketball sequences featuring cameos by nearly a dozen NBA superstars, who get the privilege of being shouted down by Crystal in what amounts to a schlemiel’s jock-fantasy minstrel show.
Having established that Mickey and Ellen are meant for each other, the movie proceeds to wedge them apart. Lonely when Mickey is on the road, Ellen asks him to quit refereeing — which he does, only to resent her for it. This is modern marital compromise taken to a level of sitcom insanity. After all, if being a hot-shot referee is such an essential aspect of Mickey, isn’t that presumably part of why Ellen fell for him in the first place? Forget Paris turns Debra Winger into a whiny, neo-’50s nag. Ellen’s big hot-button trauma is that she’s infertile, an issue that is trotted out mostly so Crystal can stage an extended joke about (yes) Mickey’s trying to produce sperm on command.
I could go on…about the framing device, in which Mickey’s pals relate his story in nudge-nudge flashback; about the loony father-in-law; about the vintage soundtrack, which suggests that Crystal has been raiding Nora Ephron’s record collection. You have to wonder: After Forget Paris, will anyone really want to see another movie featuring the timeless songs of Gershwin and Porter? At this point all they’re signifying is the self-congratulation of the filmmaker. C-