Talent and good taste don’t always go together. Take Cher. She’s one of the most gifted American actresses now working, yet when it came time for her to pick her first role after winning the Oscar for Moonstruck, what did she do? She waited three years and then chose this belabored glob of whimsy about a wisecracking-sexpot single mom who dresses like Mamie Van Doren’s low-rent cousin (the year is 1963), cooks nothing but prefab snack foods, and is such an arrested-development case that she has driven her exasperated teenage daughter (Winona Ryder) to become a wannabe nun — even though the family is Jewish. Cher obviously relishes the chance to strut down the street in pedal pushers twitching her behind like Divine in Pink Flamingos. There’s no denying that, in some terribly vulgar way, this is style. But is it acting? As always, Cher’s comic timing is flawless, but the aggressive, drag-queen tackiness of Mermaids engulfs her soulfulness as a performer. She isn’t doing anything here she couldn’t have done 20 years ago in a comedy-revue sketch with Sonny. Director Richard Benjamin punches up the wackiness and gooses the picture along with a sound track of early-’60s pop standards (”The Shoop Shoop Song,” ”You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” etc.). In the end, though, there’s something a little insulting about a contemporary movie that reduces women to either trashy bimbos or repressed virgins. D+

  • Movie
  • 110 minutes