October 29, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

When you read Mad magazine’s movie satires as a kid, half the funwas in the way they implicitly celebrated the films being ridiculed.Just think of Mort Drucker’s spectacularly detailed photo-realistcaricatures-so much more loving and precise than thegee-isn’t-this-stupid? brand of parody they were illustrating.Carl Reiner’s FATAL INSTINCT (PG-13), a spoof of psycho-stalkersex thrillers and the classic Hollywood femme fatale movies thatspawned them, is not a comedy brimming over with big, dizzyinglaughs. Reiner lacks the maliciously short attention span of Zucker,Abrahams, and Zucker (Airplane!, ; The Naked Gun). What’s more, weknow this school of parody almost too well by now; even its surprisesdon’t surprise us. Fatal Instinct isn’t really much wittier thanNational Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, Hot Shots! Part Deux, or RobinHood: Men in Tights. Yet, like the Mad parodies, it coasts along onan almost delirious affection for the movies it’s skewering.It also has something those other scattershot chucklefests didn’t:a group of actors who inhabit their roles with glee. The revelationhere is Sean Young, who may finally have found her calling as acomedian. As Lola Cain, a Lana Turner-Sharon Stone sex bomb in awhite sundress and platform sandals that always manage to pick up acandy wrapper or two, Young doesn’t just make laughably hot goo-gooeyes and curl her lips with flagrante abandon. She delivers her lineswith a ridiculous, pearly delicacy, sending up the very notion that awoman this devouring would bother to cloak her animal instincts indouble entendres. Armand Assante is the hard-boiled hero, Ned Ravine,who’s both a cop and a defense lawyer. As written, he’s a LeslieNielsen knockoff-so stupid he has to read the Miranda rights off cuecards-but Assante puts his own husky-voiced spin on Ravine’sbefuddlement. Adding to the mix are Sherilyn Fenn (looking amazinglylike Vivien Leigh) as Ravine’s masochistically devoted girl Fridayand Kate Nelligan as his hostile minx of a wife.I counted exactly one boffo sequence, a Steamy Sex Scene thatbegins with Assante jumping up and down on the bed like a little kidand features Young spinning plates with her feet as she writhes inecstasy. But the plot, which combines ingredients from BasicInstinct, Fatal Attraction, Sleeping With the Enemy, Scorsese’s CapeFear, and Double Indemnity into an overstuffed thriller fruitcake, isamusing on its own. By thumbing its nose at the suspense tricks, thevoyeurism and sleaze, the insanely overwrought hokiness of thesemovies, Fatal Instinct gently tweaks all of us in the audience whocan’t seem to get enough of them. B-

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