Ty Burr
April 12, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Tall Guy

Current Status
In Season
92 minutes
Jeff Goldblum, Rowan Atkinson, Emma Thompson
Mel Smith
Richard Curtis
Romance, Comedy

We gave it an A-

It didn’t stand a chance in the theatrical jungle, where lumbering Hollywood hits trample teeny British imports such as The Tall Guy as a matter of course. But home video’s a level playing field, and this hilarious romantic comedy clearly has what it takes to outlast gas bags like Quick Change: qualities such as a good script, likable characters, and jokes that are funny.

The tall guy in question is Dexter King (Jeff Goldblum), a sad-sack American actor stuck playing stooge to a runty comedian in a hit London stage show. Dexter’s so used to being bopped on the head that he goes through life in a perpetual out-to-lunch trance — until he meets Kate Lemon (Emma Thompson), a starchy, eccentric nurse who’s like Mary Poppins with a sex drive. In short order, Dexter’s in love, out of a job, and hired as the star of a new musical version of The Elephant Man.

It’s called Elephant! (what else?), and with big production numbers like ”I’m Packin’ My Trunk” it’s both a dead-on skewering of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the best musical parody since Springtime for Hitler in Mel Brooks’ The Producers. Director Mel Smith paces his movie like a genial, randy slapstick revue, with gags flying off in all directions. The results are uneven, but Smith hits enough targets to make The Tall Guy the video sleeper of the young year. May word of mouth on this one spread as wide as the grins it provokes. A-

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