For real

Bogus is a surprising charmer

Depardieu is equally winning. I know women who refuse to see his movies because he has admitted to the crimes of his own misspent youth, including rape. It would be a shame to let his past shade what is one of his most open and likeable performances to date. Because he is Albert's own imagination, his conscience, Bogus has many self-imposed limitations that the film adheres to rather admirably. When Harriet tricks Albert by pretending to see Bogus--miming his departure--Osment and Depardieu express the same relief and bewilderment upon his eventual return, and remind themselves never to be fooled again by Harriet. It's an enchanting little scene made even more amusing by Depardieu's frisky mischievousness. He seems to be enjoying himself immensely, and the fun is infectious.

Although Goldberg gives a capable performance, Harriet tends toward stereotype more than any other major character. She admits to having no maternal instincts, and although she tried to make life pleasant for Albert--she buys fish sticks, Mickey Mouse soap, and Big Bird bubble bath--she has nothing more than a surface familiarity with what it takes to nurture a child. She lacks the human connection: hugs, praise, and affection. We can't understand her reluctance to embrace Albert, and while that hesitance eventually gets addressed, it never rings completely true.

Bogus takes a few misguided stabs at being intentionally magical, and on the whole these are the weakest parts of the movie; near the end, sentiment gushes like a burst artery. One of the two big dream sequences in particular grinds the film to a halt, and Bogus could have done without the clip from Harvey, as well; that's always a risky venture--paying tribute to better, similar movies. Still, you can't fault Jewison for wearing his heart on his sleeve any more than you can complain about how the enormous moon dominated the night scenes in Moonstruck.

For me, there are only a few real, unabashedly effective tear-jerkers, the kind that touch you because you really care for the characters, and because the actors' emotions seem sincere: Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment, Kirk's eulogy for Spock in Star Trek II, the closing scene from Schindler's List. Bogus stands at the heels of these giants, but it passes the hardest test yet devised for recommending this sort of movie: I look at the couple sitting in front of me to see if the man openly cries at least once, yet by the end still seems to enjoy the movie. Works every time.

Bogus. Warner Bros./Regency. Whoopi Goldberg, Gerard Depardieu, Haley Joel Osment. Written by Alvin Sargent. Directed by Norman Jewison. Now showing.

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