Guarding Tess

As even the title suggests, this is an attempt to rekindle the sort of giggly, middlebrow, faded-empire charm of Driving Miss Daisy, seen here in the gradually warming relationship between an eccentric former first lady (Shirley MacLaine) living in a small Ohio town and a young, by-the-book Secret Service agent (Nicolas Cage) assigned to protect her. All this is supposed to be as cute as bugs and chock-full of worldly wisdom, but even with lead actors as likable and as resourceful as these, the material made me alternately want to gag and nod off. And when the filmmakers—writer-director Hugh Wilson (Police Academy) and cowriter Peter Torokvei—throw in a ludicruous kidnapping toward the end in a futile effort to liven things up, they only make things worse. With Austin Pendleton (not so funny this time around), Edward Albert, James Rebhorn, and Richard Griffiths.

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