Hugo Pool

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Robert Downey

REVIEWED: 12-22-97

A giddy haze of '60s drug culture hovers over the strained high jinks of Robert Downey's Hugo Pool. Maker of the cutting-edge cult comedy Putney Swope (1969), and father of Robert Downey Jr. (who's featured in Pool mugging egregiously in the role of a cutting-edge cult-movie director with homicidal tendencies and a substance-abuse problem), Downey tries to re-create the loopy irreverence of Putney Swope in a '90s setting -- with little success.

Hugo (Alyssa Milano, whose comely proportions are ogled gratuitously, a '60s throwback we're better off without) is the owner of the title pool-cleaning service. Her busy schedule is complicated by her gambling-addicted mother (Cathy Moriarty), her multiply-addicted father (Malcolm McDowell), a man in blue shoes (Sean Penn), and a hunky wheelchair-bound customer suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease. Although this loose farce sometimes hits a sentimental or satiric nerve, it's more self-conscious than madcap, and the overenergetic exertions of its impressive cast go down the drain.

--Peter Keough

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