It is by now an established law of nature that when director John Boorman goes off the deep end, he really, really goes off the deep end. Remember Zardoz? Exorcist II: The Heretic? (Yes, yes, I know: You’re still trying to forget.) Ruminating on his inexplicable new comedy Where the Heart Is, Boorman has said, ”I’ve perhaps exhausted my interest in big, epic storytelling and am moving toward simpler human stories.” That sounds fine, except that Boorman’s idea of a simple human story turns out to be an allegorical farce about Manhattan rich kids that plays like a cross between a sitcom and a brain seizure.

This straining-to-be-lyrical movie, in which a family of spoiled materialists (led by demolition engineer Dabney Coleman) learns there’s more to life than comfort and success, covers a, shall we say, generous range of topics. These include gentrification, the art of dress designing, the omnipotence of computers, ”closet heterosexuals,” the homeless, what it’s like to meet the President, and the spiritual value of body painting.

One does have to admit that the movie’s brightly colored trompe l’oeil paintings — in which actors like Crispin Glover and Uma Thurman are blended into backgrounds of famous masterpieces — are a feast for the eyes. Maybe the folks at Touchstone Pictures can hawk some color stills in the lobby to recoup their losses. F

Where the Heart Is
  • Movie
  • 120 minutes