Coupe De Ville

Road movies imitate life in one key respect: If you’re going to ask your audience to sit in a car for two hours, you had better make sure that they like the company.

Unfortunately, nobody told that to the makers of Coupe de Ville, which may be why it lasted about five minutes in theaters. The premise isn’t bad — three battling brothers learn to love and respect each other while delivering a mint Caddy to their dying dad — but what a bunch of jerks these characters are! Marvin (Daniel Stern) is a shrieking bully, Buddy (Arye Gross) is a charmless nerd, and baby brother Bobby (Patrick Dempsey) is a burgeoning thug; together they’re as much fun as gum disease. Especially when they turn sensitive at the end.

Set in the early ’60s for no reason except to get oldies on the soundtrack, the film alternates between shrill comedy and cloying sentiment: All of it’s broad and little of it works. Alan Arkin does a pro turn as the solemnly funny father, James Gammon gets laughs as a loony mechanic, and there’s one amusing bit about the real lyrics to ”Louie, Louie.” But Stern, Gross, and Dempsey — good actors all — flounder directionlessly in their attempts to make their characters interesting. D

Coupe De Ville
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