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Case Number 02709: Small Claims Court

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Fatal Instinct

MGM // 1993 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // March 17th, 2003

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All Rise...

The Charge

Sex, murder and revenge were never this funny!

The Case

Detective Ned Revine (Armand Assante, Judge Dredd) is a wanted man…wanted by many women, that is! Ned is married to Lana (Kate Nelligan, The Prince of Tides) who's having an affair with the local mechanic Frank Kelbo (Christopher McDonald, Happy Gilmore) and they both want her husband dead! At the office, Ned's secretary, Laura Lincolnberry (Sherilyn Fenn, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), caters to his every need while quietly pining for Ned's affections. Then there's Lola Cain (Sean Young, Blade Runner), a sultry blonde seductress with a few skeletons in her closet…and an ice pick near her bubble bath. All of these wacky characters will come together to spoof such classic film noir/thrillers as Basic Instinct, Fatal Attraction, and Cape Fear.

There's a fine line between funny and stupid. Funny: most Steve Martin movies. Stupid: anything involving Yahoo Serious. As you can see, it's a delicate balance that must be treaded lightly. I give Fatal Instinct credit for trying to be funny, even though it ends up as utterly stupid entertainment (in the case, stupid being spelled "stoo-pid"). During the heyday of The Naked Gun series, there was an outpouring of films that wanted to be irreverently silly. Wrongfully Accused, Spy Hard…it's a pretty big list. Carl Reiner also threw his hat into the ring with Fatal Instinct, a spoof that never quite hits its mark. Many of the repeating gags weren't funny to begin with (the Sean Young character always has something stuck to the bottom of her shoe…har-har-har) and the puns fly fast and furious without much weight. Like some mystery of the universe, I'll never understand what makes or breaks a Zucker-style comedy: where as Airplane, Hot Shots!, and The Naked Gun films are all hysterically funny, Fatal Instinct doesn't muster up a single guffaw—only mild smirks. The actors walk through the script with deadpan accuracy, which is the only way to play this material. The men act tough and the women act sexy, keeping in style with the era that the film sends up. The jokes in Fatal Instinct include (but are sadly not limited to): Armand Assante falling off a bar stool; Sean Young blowing an exorbitant amount of cigarette smoke into a Assante's face; a man attempting to eat chewing gum while wearing pantyhose over his head; detectives slipping in pools of blood, then falling down. And so on, and so on. If any of these gags sound like gut busters, then Fatal Instinct is your smoking gun. As for me, I know that Carl Reiner has done far better work (The Jerk, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid), so watching Fatal Instinct is little like making love when you're tired—it won't hurt you, but it's certainly not as good when you put some true feeling into it.

Fatal Instinct is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame transfer. MGM, what's the deal? It's as if the company picks various movies at random for widescreen transfers, anamorphic enhancements, and hacked pan and scan versions. Even though I wasn't crazy about this film, I do believe that every movie should be shown in the correct aspect ratio. What fans get this time around is a rather lackluster print that cuts off a lot of information from each side of the screen. The print itself is in decent shape, though it's not going to win any awards. The colors and black levels are all generally solid with a slight amount of grain popping up from time to time. It's a real travesty that studios still continue to produce discs that at the very least offer the correct aspect ratio. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround as well as Dolby Digital Mono in Spanish. There's not a whole lot to be said for this sound mix—it's flat and uniformly boring. The sound stage is directed in only the front speakers and offers little in the way of directional effects or surround sounds. The best thing that can be said for this audio track is that the music, dialogue, and effects are free of any hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

For a comedy that tanked at the box office and was given shoddy video treatment, MGM sure has gone all out and thrown on some substantial extra features for Fatal Instinct. First up is a commentary track by director Carl Reiner and writer David O'Malley. Unfortunately, this track is somewhat of a dud; Reiner and O'Malley are very subdued and laid back, which isn't a lot of fun when the track is for a wacky comedy. The usual production info, casting stories, and other tidbits are supplied for those who really care. Also included on the disc are no less than 10 deleted scenes featuring optional commentary by Reiner and O'Malley. Most of these scenes are just more lame jokes or extensions of jokes, so their exclusion from the film wasn't a big loss. One scene features the late Dudley Moore dressed up in drag. Finally, there is a full frame theatrical trailer for the film.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 68

Perp Profile

Studio: MGM
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary Track by Director Carl Reiner and Writer David O'Malley
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Writer and Director Commentary
• Original Theatrical Trailer


• IMDb

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