Whoops and Cheers

Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson have teamed up for the largely unfunny culture clash comedy Made In America. Alan Morrison met them and cringed.

It’s crass, it’s loud, it's in-your-face. it could only be called Made In America. Black American radicalism meets the epitome of Southern pigheadedness maybe cast Denzel Washington and Dennis Hopper. But no, this is a comedy, so let’s have, ehm, Whoopi Goldberg hot from under the Sister Act habit and the nation’s favourite barman, Sam Malone aka Ted Danson.

She‘s Sarah Mathews, an ethnic bookstore owner, a single-parent mom, a say-it-out-loud-l’m-black-and- l‘m proud woman who would make Spike Lee look like a Texas redneck. He’s Hal Jackson, a cowboy- clad car salesman. who shacks up with bimbos, stars in TV commercials with a nose-picking chimp and keeps cold pizza slices by his bed. Two extremes of American culture. thrown together eighteen years ago in a test-tube, when a mix-up in a clinic landed Sarah with Hal’s sperm instead ofthe tall. intelligent, black man she had asked for. it’s only when the resulting daughter, Zora. goes searching through the computer files to find the daddy she never had that the mistake comes to light.

‘It wasn’t that it was written for a white person, it just happened that they wanted Jessica Lange to do it

‘Maybe it’s got something to do with the love interest that wasn’t in the plot, but was the hot gossip item oft-set, because there certainly seems to be something of the rose-tinted binoculars about their aspirations as a top comedy duo.’

and both families were the same colour,‘ explains the Oscar-winning Goldberg. ‘So it could have been an all-black cast as well. But somehow they decided no, if you do it Whoopi, we’ll make the guy white and that'll give us some comedic stretching material.’ Don’t. however, expect clever comic touches that deflate racial misconceptions in this movie. This one was made according to the book, and the book forgot to include the word ‘subtle’. Each point is rammed home probably because the 180 degree-character shifts that occur are way too unbelievable even for a Hollywood romantic comedy. Hal, the uncaring bachelor, sees a bulletin board filled with pictures of Zora growing up, and so Ted adopts an open-jawed. goofy, shiny-eyed look: a couple of photos, and it’s a road to Damascus tumabout for this guy. He stops acting like an asshole for two lines, takes Sarah out for dinner, and the strong-willed woman is putty in his hands. There are only three questions to ask about

Made In America: is it a) the worst film of the year? b) ofthe decade? c) of all time‘?

Not that Whoopi and Ted seem to have noticed. They’re sure that a sequel is in the pipeline, and that America’s best writers are hard at work devising other projects for them. Maybe it's got something to do with the love interest that wasn’t in the plot but was the hot gossip item off-set. because there certainly seems to be something of the rose-tinted binoculars about their aspirations as a top comedy duo.

‘lt‘s a magical thing that you don‘t find often,’ she waxes on the subject of their (professional) compatibility. ‘There’s maybe one other person who can really do it, that you can turn to. ljust think we lucked out: we’d have been swimming in separate ponds forever if this movie had not come up. i believe it’s because there’s a love that we carry for film and for some ofthe other teams that we‘ve seen. i like to say that it is because we are children of the classic teams' next, she‘ll be comparing them to Tracy and Hepburn! ‘people like Tracy and Hepburn, who had that chemistry. You see the potential, you say “Well, what about a little bit of this?” and the other person says “Well, what about a little bit ofthat?"

Even if the tabloids are more concerned about them getting up to a little bit of the other. The film comes at what is undoubtedly a crossroads in Danson’s career, after eleven years behind the bar of Cheers, easily the most consistently funny ofthe imported American TV series. ‘lt’s like losing a member of the family,‘ he says regarding the end of the show, ‘eight of my best friends . . . no, seven, i didn‘t like the eighth one that much . . . seven of my closest friends in life I play with every day and there’s a great

, ~ H " . tier {‘5

Made In America: ‘crass, loud and in-your-tace’

excuse to make each other laugh and hang around. That excuse is gone now. There will be, when it's time to go back to work and I don’t, an even bigger sense of loss than I feel right now. But you can never march around making sure you get remembered the way you want to be remembered. l've had my film roles described as everything from “a great departure from Sam" to “a continuation of Sam”.’

Goldberg. on the other hand, has never been more popular, and knows that in The Colour Purple and Sarafina.’ she has proved herselfoutwith the field of comedy. But ask her if filming in Soweto on the latter opened her eyes to the vacuity of Hollywood life, and the answer you get is a little self-satisfied:

‘I just think we lucked out: we’d have i been swimming in separate ponds : forever if this movie had not come up.’ 5

‘Soweto, like any other huge ghetto, is a place where you want to go when you’re me. You want to go and 1 say “You know what: do and be who you are". I Hollywood has been very good to me. I’m not supposed to be living this well because i come to it so l’rn told - somewhat crippled, being coloured ‘n‘ all, but I’ve managed to maintain exactly who i want to be, exactly the way that i want to be. And now they have to pay me because it took them so long to catch up. So I’m feeling pretty damn good about Hollywood.‘

Well, l’m glad someone is.

Made In America ( [2) ()pé’IlS in Scotland on Friday [3 August.


The List l3—<l9 August 1993 79