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BARRYMORE PUTS SIZZLE IN 'HOME FRIES'

She works at the Burg-O-Matic. She's so pregnant, though -- only weeks away from the final waddle -- that she can't wait on customers. So she sits taking orders for burgers, fries and shakes at the drive-through window.

There, about once a day, she is subject to entreaties of various sorts by the guy who made her pregnant, a married, middle-aged philanderer with two stepsons who fly helicopters for the National Guard.

At closing time, on the headset where she usually hears burger and coke sizes, she hears interference from some guys who are running the old guy aground in, uh, a helicopter.

What follows is a heart attack, some cheating and the omnipresent cinematic dangers of being slow on the uptake in rural America. In other words, black comedy attempting to be of the Joel and Ethan Coen variety.

Not to worry. The theme music to "Home Fries" is Dean Martin's "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime," and it's on the square. This is black comedy gone cute.

There's a romance here -- our goofy preggers burger goddess and the goofy but sweet, mother-loving stepson of the baby's no-good father. Their first date is probably the sexiest Lamaze class in movies. (Any movie that can make a Lamaze class sexy can't be dismissed lightly.)

Now the good news. The girl is played by Drew Barrymore, who couldn't be cuter or more delightful if she tried -- not to mention a good actress inching her way into being a very good one.

The boy is Luke Wilson, an earnest, likable guff who, I'm told, definitely has the makings of a young girl's bedroom pinup. No small thing in this movie era.

The writer is Vince Gilligan, co-executive producer of "The X-Files," and the director is Dean Parisot of TV's "ER," among other things.

An interesting thing, that.

There have been individual episodes of "The X-Files" and "ER" that were far more creative and interesting than "Home Fries," as delightful as Drew Barrymore is -- particularly the "X-Files" (and "Millennium") episodes written by Darin Morgan, a brilliant TV lunatic who, in the world's perfect movie studio, would be paid handsomely to apply himself, night and day, to feature film scripts. If ever there was a writer American movies need, it's Darin Morgan.

Vince Gilligan does some nice things in "Home Fries" -- it's the same kind of movie, really, as "Pecker" only, sadly, about half as good.

Still, Barrymore is definitely on a major career roll, what with "The Wedding Singer," "Ever After" and now this.

Try to indulge those, then, who, like Steven Spielberg, are saying "I told you so" for loving her in "E.T." and knowing that, wasted youth or not, she could turn out to be the movie delight that she is.

REVIEW
Home Fries

Rating: * * 1/2 Drew Barrymore, Luke Wilson, Catherine O'Hara and Jake Busey in eccentric black comedy about love, motherhood, murder and burgers in a small town. Written by Vince Gilligan, directed by Dean Parisot. Rated R, opening Wednesday in area theaters.

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