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[whitespace] Reviews by Richard von Busack

John Waters directs Lili Taylor, Martha Plimpton and Christina Ricci in a heartwarming tale of the New York art gallery scene. Pecker, a humble, homely hillbilly (Edward Furlong), is discovered by Diane Arbus-like photographers who want to exploit his "look"--with little care for the context or consequences. The title comes from the affectionate nickname Pecker's family gave him: he pecks at his food just like a little bird. Though often dismissed as mere gross-outs, every one of Waters' movies is a humorous essay in toleration, from the point of view of the discriminated-against. He's got that ol' liberal agenda, and the Farrellys don't--that's why I think this will be better than There's Something About Mary.

Simon Birch
Opens Sept. 11
In a postcardesque New England village, a man remembers his youth in the 1960s and recalls his best friend, the undersized, irascible but holy Simon Birch (Ian Michael Smith). As a boy, Joe (Joe Mazzello), the main character, doesn't know the identity of his father. Through Birch's efforts, Joe learns the truth. Mark Steven Johnson, who scripted the Grumpy Old Men duology, makes his directorial debut here. He's revised John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany into a dirty-mouthed children's movie. Irving has disassociated himself from this film--but we shouldn't necessarily fault Simon Birch for its mediocrity, when the source book so urgently needs a reassessment. Still, Simon Birch is even weaker than the original novel. In the lead, the diminutive Smith is ingratiating for 20 minutes and grating for the other 95.

Matt Damon returns in a story of urban gamblers. He stars as a law student who is playing poker to make his money through law school. Rounders has a strong director (John Dahl of Red Rock West and The Last Seduction) and a stronger cast: John Turturro, the spooky Edward Norton (playing a character called "Worm") and John Malkovich donning an accent as a Russian mafioso.

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From the September 7-20, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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