Owen Gleiberman
September 24, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Breakfast Of Champions

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
110 minutes
performer
Bruce Willis, Albert Finney, Lukas Haas, Glenne Headly, Barbara Hershey, Nick Nolte
director
Alan Rudolph
author
Alan Rudolph
genre
Comedy

We gave it an F

Breakfast of Champions is unwatchable. Why would a director as gifted as Alan Rudolph (”Afterglow”) want to make the world’s most interminable used-car salesman joke? Kurt Vonnegut’s 1973 doodle-mad satire is probably unfilmable, but Rudolph doesn’t even get the novel’s playful pop-throwaway spirit. The movie is two hours of Bruce Willis mugging like a genial jackass as he’s shoved through one shrill, broad, mechanically derisive setup after another.

Willis plays suburban auto honcho Dwayne Hoover, who thinks he’s losing his mind, and Nick Nolte is his closet-transvestite assistant manager. As the dilapidated sci-fi writer Kilgore Trout, Albert Finney looks like he’s trying to win the homeless-mumbler sweepstakes.

What thrived in the book was Vonnegut’s portrait of post-counterculture America turned into an ironic landscape of happy-face consumerism. Rudolph, in an act of insane folly, seems to think that what matters is the story. The result could almost be his version of a Robert Altman disaster — a movie so unhinged it practically dares you not to hate it.

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