Too Much Sun

This sex farce exhibits a desperate need to shock: When wealthy O.M. Rivers (Howard Duff) dies, his two children – Sonny (Eric Idle) and Bitsy (Andrea Martin) – are stunned that avaricious Father Kelly (Jim Haynie) has arranged for the church to inherit the Rivers fortune unless Sonny or Bitsy can produce a child by natural means in a year. The snag is that Sonny and Bitsy are gay. But they're also determined to meet the challenge, much to the horror of their respective lovers, George (Leo Rossi) and Susan (Laura Ernst).

Set in California, the film takes aim at greed and hypocrisy. How about that for going out on a limb? And this from writer-director Robert Downey, whose underground films (Chafed Elbows, Putney Swope) were the ultimate in hip Sixties satire. Even the offbeat casting of Ralph Macchio as oversexed con artist Frank Della Rocca and the director's son Robert Downey Jr. as Frank's sleaze-bag partner Reed Richmond seems more of a box-office concession than a sendup of youth.

When Reed tries to pass as Bitsy's lost son for a crack at the cash, you know Downey wants to provoke us. But how? By showing Sonny pumping limply away at a leggy hooker (Jennifer Rubin) or Reed masturbating while Bitsy sings him a lullaby or Father Kelly servicing a harem of nuns or Frank (played by the Karate Kid himself) watching porn flicks and talking dirty? It doesn't work. Too Much Sun covers no new ground and exposes no new follies. Downey has become what every true satirist fears most: outdated.

From The Archives Issue 598: February 21, 1991