Neither the doctor (Sydney Pollack) nor Ernest (Bruce Willis ) can wrap his mind around Madeline’s (Meryl Streep) condition.
High-concept director Robert Zemeckis applies his usual polish — helped by an equally adept cast — for this surprisingly gruesome and extremely funny black comedy. The film begins with narcissistic actress Madeline (Meryl Streep) stealing the latest in a series of potential fiancées, wimpy plastic surgeon Ernest (Bruce Willis), from her ex-best friend Helen (Goldie Hawn). Depressed and infuriated, Helen suffers a breakdown that lands her in a mental hospital — in addition to a junk-food bender that seems to triple her weight. When Madeline crosses paths with Helen again many years later, she is horrified to discover her once-chunky rival looking younger, slimmer and more glamorous than ever before. Fearing that Helen will try to steal Ernest back — and dreading the thought of not having a plastic surgeon at her beck and call — Madeline solicits the supernatural services of an exotic New Age mystic (Isabella Rossellini), who sells her a potent youth elixir with the stipulation that she follow the dosage instructions to the letter… yeah, right. It appears that Helen owes her sexy comeback to the same magic formula, and the inevitable violent clash between the two well-dressed banshees leads to the realization that both women have become nearly impervious zombies, clawing at each other’s throats long after the blood has run cold in their veins. Best remembered for Dick Smith’s Oscar-winning makeup effects, which allow the rapidly-rotting undead femmes to toss off witty one-liners with ragged holes blasted through their bodies or spin their heads Exorcist-style. Not all the sight gags work, and Zemeckis’ lighthearted treatment of such grotesque material tends to dull the satirical edge, but there are some truly inspired moments of dementia — particularly a hilarious cameo from Sydney Pollack as a doctor who comes unglued while examining Streep (who has yet to realize she’s dead).
TM & © Universal (1992)
Cast: Sydney Pollack, Bruce Willis, Meryl Streep
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Producers: Joan Bradshaw, Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis
Screenwriters: Martin Donovan, David Koepp