StoryAfter establishing her screen career with supporting roles in The Big Chill and The Natural, Glenn Close made her starring debut in the title role of this tepid comedy--an example of the "body-switch" movie trend of the mid-1980s. No doubt Close sensed tour-de-force potential in playing a virtuous San Francisco wife and Catholic bishop's secretary whose body is possessed by the vampy spirit of a 1920s flapper. Instead, the movie drains all the energy from Close's valiant efforts, neglecting virtually any idea that might have made this film genuinely fresh and funny. What's left is an amiable, old-fashioned comedy that gets by on sporadic bursts of charm.
Jan (Close) and her librarian husband Nick (Mandy Patinkin) discover Maxie's past in their roomy Victorian home; elderly neighbor Ruth Gordon (in her final film role) informs them that Maxie was on the verge of silent-movie stardom when she died in a car accident in 1927. But Maxie's spirit lives on, and her ectoplasm settles intermittently into Jan's body, sending Nick into a panic when Maxie "drops in" at unpredictable intervals. All Maxie wants is another shot at stardom, and she gets her chance in a remake of Cleopatra--with unbilled Harry Hamlin as Marc Antony! A dubious premise to begin with, it's further victimized by a nagging flatness of tone; if this were a TV sitcom the laugh track would be silent. Fortunately for Close, her psycho-success in Fatal Attraction was less than two years away. --Jeff Shannon