Second Sight (1989)


USA. 1989.


Director – Joel Zwick, Screenplay – Patricia Resnick & Tom Schulman, Producer – Mark Tarlov, Photography – Dana Christiaansen, Music – John Morris, Visual Effects – Associates and Ferren (Supervisor – Bran Ferren), Special Effects Supervisor – Larry Cavanaugh, Production Design – James L. Schoppe. Production Company – Lorimar/Ursus


John Larroquette (Wills), Bronson Pinchot (Bobby Magee), Stuart Pankin (Preston Pickett), Bess Armstrong (Sister Elisabeth), John Schuck (Manoogian), Marisol Massey (Maria Soledad), Christine Estabrook (Priscilla Pickett), James Tolkan (Chief Coolidge), William Prince (Cardinal O’Hara), Michael Lombard (Bishop O’Linn)


Wills, an embittered former cop; Bobby Magee, an extraordinarily adept psychic who is otherwise a total imbecile; and psychologist Dr Preston Pickett form The Second Sight Detective Agency that specialises in psychic methods of detection. When they are approached by a beautiful nun from the local Catholic church, Wills agrees to take up a routine car theft case. The local cardinal who was in line to be made the next pope is then kidnapped and they are plunged into a major case. In the course of the investigation, the psychic powers that Bobby channels wreak absolute havoc.

Second Sight was an attempt to copy Ghostbusters (1984). It is an incredibly bad film.

Director Joel Zwick likes to insert inane comedy at the expense of virtually everything else in the film. There are manic car chases with characters lying liked beached porpoises across the hood of the car; or a scene in which John Larroquette and Christine Estabrook fight for control of a tv set, she flicking channels with the remote and he moving Bronson Pinchot’s body into bizarre gymnastic contortions. It is all overblown and painfully unfunny, the most ridiculous part of which is an extended sequence with an airliner crashing through the streets.

The star performer in Zwick’s inanity is Bronson Pinchot. Pinchot gives a performance that is like a marionette that seems to be being fought for control of by at least three different puppeteers at once. His base performance is as a gape-jawed, blankly smiling idiot, stumbling over his own feet in whatever direction takes his passing fancy, before suddenly being animated into manic hyperkinesis by everything from radar bleeps to possession by street gang members. It is an infuriatingly idiotic performance and worst is the fact that Joel Zwick seems to regard it as the height of comedy and allows everything else in the film to pander to Pinchot’s grotesque excesses.

The actual solving of the kidnapping is of secondary, even tertiary, importance – we, for example, never see the guilty party of the piece arrested, or are even given any confirmation other than John Larroquette’s speculation, that said person was behind it or why.

Second Sight was a flop and caused Joel Zwick to have to retreat into directing television for the next decade. He did however have a surprise hit with the comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). His only other film venture into fantastic material has been the big screen remake of Fat Albert (2004).

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