July 4, 2022

Bogus (1996)
Grade: 49/100

Director: Norman Jewison
Stars: Whoopie Goldberg, Haley Joel Osment, Gérard Depardieu

What it's about. Albert (Haley Joel Osment) is a boy of about eight years old. He grows up on the Las Vegas Strip, where his beautiful and perpetually nice mother Lorraine (Nancy Travis) works as a showgirl. Tragically, she dies in a car accident.

Because it is a movie, Lorraine has no relatives and the boy is turned over to his mother's best friend from a decade-plus ago, Harriet (Whoopi Goldberg), whom Albert has never met.

Harriet is a busy and asexual small business owner with no interest in having a child. Because it is a movie, she agrees sight-unseen to become Albert's mother, and the boy moves to Newark, New Jersey. Along the way, Albert acquires Bogus, an imaginary friend (Gérard Depardieu) and apparently a substitute for the only father figure he has ever had, Franco-American Vegas Strip magician Monsieur Antoine (Denis Mercier).

The grumpy and no-nonsense Harriet is quite the contrast to fun-loving Bogus. She has much to learn from him, and, because it is a movie, sees the light (and Bogus) by the final reel. Once Harriet and Albert have bonded, Bogus talks to the camera then exits stage right.

How others will see it. Bogus was a box office flop. It didn't help matters that its second lead, Depardieu, was persona non grata in America after a 1991 interview with Time Magazine where he claimed to have raped many women and "there was nothing wrong with it. The girls wanted to be raped. I mean, there's no such thing as rape." You have heard the maxim, "there's no such thing as bad publicity." Actually, there is.

But it was Whoopi Goldberg who received Worst Actress nominations from both the Razzie Awards and The Stinkers, "winning" at the latter event despite stiff competition from Demi Moore, Ellen DeGeneres, and Pamela Anderson. Today at imdb.com, the film has a reasonable 6700 user votes, but the user rating of 5.3 out of 10 is paltry. There is a gender spread, though. Men grade it 5.1, and women grade it 5.9, with the higher number likely due to sympathy for adorable little Albert.

How I felt about it. The most remarkable thing about the film Bogus is that a major studio (Warner Bros.) allowed its release under that title. Because that's just asking for it. If critics abstained from proclaiming "Don't see that Bogus movie!" it was only due to the simple degree of difficulty.

Actually, Goldberg is better here than Osment, who as a child actor remains heralded to this day for his performances in The Sixth Sense, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Forrest Gump, and, yes, "The Jeff Foxworthy Show." When Osment hams it up, though, it may be because of encouragement from director Jewison, who knows little subtlety in this purported family movie.

One does feel sorry for Goldberg, if not for her Stinkers award, but her character here. She is such a sourpuss that she knocks down approaching children at a birthday party, even when this action is certain to lose her client, good-guy Bob Morrison (Kevin Jackson). But we are certain that either Bogus or Albert will eventually warm her heart, with the long-awaited big hug in the climax between problem child and adoptive mother. Awwwww.

The best work here is from Andrea Martin, who has a charming but unfortunately minor role as Goldberg's daffy secretary. All we need now to fix the DVD chapters to open with her appearances, so that the rest of the film can be easily bypassed.