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Friday, October 23, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`Pure Country' Is Just A Movie In A Strait Jacket

X 1/2 "Pure Country," with George Strait, Lesley Ann Warren, John Doe, Isabel Glasser, Rory Calhoun, Kyle Chandler. Directed by Christopher Cain, from a script by Rex McGee. Alderwood, Everett Mall, Factoria, Metro, Parkway Plaza, Seatac Mall. "PG" - Parental guidance advised, due to language. --------------------------------------------------------------- If you liked everything about Elvis Presley's movies except Elvis, you may be able to keep your eyes open during "Pure Country," a country romance that is virtually a remake of the vanilla-flavored, all-but-identical vehicles Presley made 30 years ago.

Rex McGee's script includes most of the essential ingredients: Vegas-style production numbers, cute old folks, a sanitized barroom brawl, a photogenic athletic contest, some light criticism of commercial exploitation of singing stars, and a wheezing plot that tries to generate suspense out of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl.

What's missing are the King and his music. In their place, "Pure Country" gives us the film debut of country star George Strait, whose seamlessly wholesome screen personality is more like Pat Boone's than Presley's. His songs are so bland that it's hard to swallow the script's attempts to turn Strait's character, Dusty Wyatt Chandler, into a serious folk artist who becomes the victim of show-biz hype.

Complaining that his manager (Lesley Ann Warren) has turned his show into a smoke-and-mirrors spectacle in which he has become nearly invisible, Dusty hits the road to get back to his roots, shaving off his light beard and ponytail, hitchhiking to visit his grandmother, learning how to ride a horse, and falling in love with a feisty rodeo competitor who doesn't recognize him (Isabel Glasser).

Meanwhile, his manager is hoping Dusty's audience won't recognize an imitator behind all that smoke. Desperate to go on with a sold-out show, she paints a 5 o'clock shadow on her ambitious young boyfriend (Kyle Chandler), hides the rest of his features behind a Garth Brooks hat, and gets away with the ruse. Then the boyfriend starts talking, Dusty hears about the fraud, and there's a showdown in Vegas where a rodeo also happens to be taking place.

The ever-watchable Warren walks away with most of her scenes, though Strait doesn't offer much competition, and her presence merely reminds you of how much more fun she was in Alan Rudolph's witty 1984 country-western comedy, "Songwriter." Punk-rocker John Doe brings his laid-back charm to the role of Dusty's best friend, western-movie veteran Rory Calhoun has some low-comedy fun with the part of the girlfriend's father, while Glasser (soon to be seen opposite Mel Gibson in "Forever Young") tries in vain to freshen her worn-out role.

The director, Christopher Cain ("Young Guns," "The Principal"), brings not a hint of irony to any of this - not even to the Vegas finale in which Dusty is supposed to rescue himself from glitz.

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

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