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Saturday, July 18, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Rafelson's `Man Trouble' Is A Barkin Dog Of A Film

X "Man Trouble," with Jack Nicholson, Ellen Barkin, Harry Dean Stanton, Beverly D'Angelo, Michael McKean, Saul Rubinek, Veronica Cartwright. Directed by Bob Rafelson, from a script by Carole Eastman. Aurora, Crossroads, Grand Cinemas Alderwood, Guild 45th, Kirkland Parkplace, Renton Village, Seatac Mall. "PG-13" - Parental guidance advised, due to language, tasteless jokes. --------------------------------

A jaw-dropping Hollywood disaster of "Hudson Hawk" proportions, "Man Trouble" at least won't put you to sleep.

You'll be too busy blinking in disbelief at the parade of talent that created this vulgar whimsy. You could develop insomnia thinking about the $30 million budget, the miles of celluloid used to manufacture hundreds of prints, or the many hours that studio, advertising and theater employees will throw away trying to divest moviegoers of their ticket money.

The movie marks the first reunion of Jack Nicholson, screenwriter Carole Eastman and director Bob Rafelson, who 22 years ago created a counterculture classic, "Five Easy Pieces." But Eastman and Rafelson didn't get along this time, and Eastman has complained that Rafelson's male viewpoint distorted her material.

Still, the Writers Guild has given Eastman sole script credit. She must have had something to do with the creaky plot, the sparkless dialogue between Nicholson and Ellen Barkin, and a series of unfunny gags that ridicule Asians, Mexicans, Germans, mannish

lesbians, horny attack dogs and dithering, helpless females who can neither drive on freeways nor walk without mincing.

Nicholson plays an attack-dog trainer who is married to Adele, an unhappy Asian lady he condescendingly calls Iwo Jima during their marital-therapy sessions. He wants her to trust him even though he's using a fake name, he's being pursued by creditors and the IRS, and he throws himself at countless women, including a recently divorced ninny (Barkin) and her bimbo sister (Beverly D'Angelo).

Complicating the situation are the ninny's determination to rid herself of an unknown admirer who has burglarized her home and attacks her with an ax (there's a lame running gag about slasher movies and their self-promoting creators) and the sister's plans to write a best-seller that will expose her crooked boyfriend (Harry Dean Stanton).

Veronica Cartwright is the ninny's nondescript best friend; David Clennon turns up as her ex-husband - a choir director who tells his female singers, "This is supposed to sound virginal, ladies, so just fake it"; and writer-director Paul Mazursky ("Enemies, a Love Story") wastes his time with a gratuitous bit part as a pesky dog owner.

Like most truly terrible movies, "Man Trouble" includes just enough backfiring dialogue to make you wonder if perhaps everyone knew they'd climbed aboard a sinking ship. At one point, Barkin wants to know which exit to take off the freeway.

"What difference does it make?" Nicholson barks back. "We're not going anywhere."

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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