• THE CANDIDATE is one of the most cynical movies to come along in recent years. Its message (if there is one) seems to be that principles are irrelevant in a political campaign; that compromise pays off; and that winning elections is an end in itself. Robert Redford stars as a Nadar-type lawyer who is persuaded to run for Senator on the Democratic ticket, against a seemingly invincible Republican opponent. He accepts the opportunity so that he will have a chance to speak out on the issues that seem to concern him most: pollution, abortion, welfare, vested interests. But under the influence of his campaign managers and his ambitious wife, Redford is gradually transformed into an evasive, compromising, utterly conventional politician. At the end, having abandoned most of his principles, he goes on to win the election. By this time, he has lost the last shred of his original goal; on learning of his victory, he asks his campaign manager, "What do we do now?" Given such a plot, the film might have succeeded as the tale of the gradual destruction of a man's honesty and integrity. But THE CANDIDATE fails to achieve even this modest goal. From the beginning, Redford is the soul of detachment, superficial and emotionally uninvolved; he never appears well-defined, either as a person or as a political idealist. Nor does the film portray the triumph of image over principle; Redford's opponent (ably played by Don Porter) comes on as an empty-headed, sloganeering conservative. What the film does demonstrate is the bankruptcy of contemporary politics, and the ease with which the image-makers can manipulate philosophically disarmed voters and candidates. But then, we knew that already, didn't we? Rated "PG".
• THE NEW CENTURIONS is a cross between DRAGNET and soap opera, a volatile mixture resulting in a wildly erratic movie. On the level of entertainment, the film is fast-paced and exciting, with a plentiful supply of violence and low comedy to keep the viewer diverted. As a human drama it is less successful, abounding with cliches such as the retired cop who is unable to cope with not being needed any more, and the rookie policeman who becomes so involved in his job that he neglects his wife (who finally leaves him). But it is at the level of social commentary that THE NEW CENTURIONS is most disturbing. Many critics have labeled it a "pro-police" movie. To this reviewer, the film seems to take a dim view both of police and of humanity as a whole. The policeman's role is seen as that of protecting an ungrateful society from its own vices—a seemingly losing battle, because society doesn't want to be saved, and because policemen, being human, are often unable to cope with their own problems. This attitude, pessimistic and patronizing, is the apparent justification for scenes such as: two cops filling a paddy wagon with black prostitutes, driving them around, getting them drunk, then releasing them—another policeman smashing the windows of a getaway car in frustration over the escape of a suspect—a group of vice squad officers trapping a homosexual in a public park—a policeman getting drunk on duty following the death of a friend. Despite the movie's flaws, however, the acting is first-rate. George C. Scott takes on an entirely new image as a knowledgable, cynical veteran cop who makes up and enforces his own peculiar set of rules. Stanley Keach is convincing in his role as a dedicated rookie. Jane Alexander and Rosiland Cash deliver good performances as Keach's wife and girl friend, respectively. Rated "R".
• BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE is a rarity, a delightful, intelligent romantic comedy which has enough depth to make serious statements about life. Adapted faithfully from Leonard Gershe's play, the film is about a young man, blind from birth, who attempts to detach himself from his mother's apron strings by making it on his own in swinging San Francisco. This plot would seem tailor-made for an infusion of gushy sentimentality, but the movie manages to avoid that pitfall rather nicely. The boy is portrayed as strong, self-reliant, able to cope with what Fate has dealt him. He meets and falls in love with his neighbor, a dingaling hippie girl whose apparently joyous attitude towards life masks a fear of making permanent attachments. In the meantime, the boy's mother is sparing no effort to convince her son to return to a safe, insulated existence with her. The resulting conflict is at times hilarious, at times dramatic, and at all times true to the characters involved. Edward Albert, son of actor Eddie Albert, makes an impressive screen debut as the blind boy, a role which is more difficult than may appear. Goldie Hawn is superb, delivering her best performance ever as his kookie next-door neighbor. Eileen Heckert, who appeared in the original Broadway production, infuses strength and vulnerability in her role as the domineering mother. The dialogue is witty, often salty and usually to the point. The whole film is designed and executed with such skill and flair that it should receive several Academy Award nominations. You'll be sorry if you miss this one! Rated "PG".
• A good, tight plot and a strong performance by James Earl Jones are the chief assets of THE MAN, a film adaptation of Irving Wallace's best-selling novel about the first black President of the United States. The movie's chief liabilities are a collection of cliche supporting characters, and (considering the nature of the material) a severely limited scope. The result is a fast-paced melodrama, acted out among the principal characters with very little intrusion by or into the world at large. Jones gives a believable and quietly dignified performance as a middle-class black senator, who succeeds to the White House following the accidental death of the President and the Speaker of the House, and the incapacitation of the Vice President by a stroke. Complicating the life of the new President are a racist senator (Burgess Meredith) who is out to ruin his career; an ambitious Secretary of State (William Windom) who is next in line for the Presidency; and a militant daughter (Janet MacLachlan) who considers him an "Uncle Tom." The film's major crisis develops when the government of South Africa accuses an American black militant of assassinating one of its government officials, and requests extradition. Thanks in good measure to Rod Serling's screenplay, the events of the film succeed in building up quite a bit of suspense. THE MAN was originally intended as a two-part movie for television, rather than a theatrical release. Stylistically, it remains much closer to standard television fare than contemporary movies. Much of the context is established by dialogue, rather than shown; the secondary characters tend toward the one-dimensional; and no scene lasts longer than a few minutes. But the story manages to rise above these handicaps, and a rousing good story it is. Rated "G".
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Movies".