You gotta have heart...problems. At least, that's the lesson I took away from watching both City of Angels and My Giant, the latter starring Billy Crystal as a talent agent who can't seem to catch a break. Every time Crystal's Sammy takes a step up the ladder of success, the ladder of success magically transforms into a greasy pole. When the movie opens, he's in Romania, of all places, checking in on his one and only client, an up-and-coming teen idol who, by the time Sammy arrives on the movie set, has already up and gone--i.e., dropped him for another agent. Sammy responds like a pro. "Hey, you may be next," he says when the tyro's father apologizes for firing him. Actually, Sammy's the one who may get fired by his family. Scrambling after success, he's neglected his wife, his parents, his son (who reads Variety so they'll have something to talk about when Sammy calls). And he's about to call it quits when the ladder of success magically transforms into...a beanstalk. Laid up in a Romanian monastery after crashing his rental car, Sammy meets Max (the NBA's Gheorghe Muresan)--all seven feet, seven inches of him. As an exploitable commodity, Max doesn't know his own strength. "I could put you in the movies," Sammy tells him. "What is movies?" Max responds. A jolly green giant, indeed. At its best, My Giant is like one of those Fractured Fairy Tales from the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle" show, with Sammy supplying the Jewish spritz. "If you say, 'Fe, fi, fo, fum,' I'm gonna pee my pants," he tells Max when he first sees him. At its not-so-best, the movie tries to get by on sight gags. (Sammy and Max drive around in a car so small you expect to see a dozen clowns come popping out of it.) And, at its worst, it resorts to dick jokes and vomit--lots and lots of vomit. Oh, and heart--lots and lots of heart. When Sammy, touched by Max's heart condition, decides to clean up his act and rejoin his family, the movie takes a bath in bathos.
Spritz and schmaltz go together as queasily as green eggs and ham, and yet Crystal (who also produced the movie) seems determined to build his career around them. An ingratiating ingrate, Sammy is supposed to remind us of Sammy Glick, the relentlessly rising studio executive in Budd Schulberg's famous novel What Makes Sammy Run? But My Giant doesn't care what makes Sammy run as long as he eventually runs back into the arms of his family. Meanwhile, Max, whom Sammy has manipulated from the get-go, gets gently shoved back to Romania. The movie's heart problems may belong to Max, but its heart clearly belongs to Sammy.