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NEW `GHOST,’ `VALMONT’ ARE MEDIOCRE WITH A TWIST

SHARE NEW `GHOST,’ `VALMONT’ ARE MEDIOCRE WITH A TWIST

A pair of fairly interesting but ultimately mediocre romantic films - each with a twist - go into release Friday. And both resemble other films in rather startling ways.

- "GHOST" - not to be confused with "Ghost Dad," despite some inherent resemblances - is the story of a really nice banker (Patrick Swayze) who is murdered and finds himself locked in some kind of spirit world where he must remain until his murder is solved.At least that's how it seems - though there are lots of other ghosts wandering around the streets of Manhattan who, for some reason or other, can't get to heaven either.

Learning he can communicate with a phony psychic (Whoopi Goldberg), Swayze uses her to make contact with his girlfriend (Demi Moore). He needs her help to find the motive for his being killed.

But "Ghost" is so superficial and there are so few supporting characters of any depth that it's very easy to figure out who the bad guy is - despite attempts to make this movie a mystery of sorts. (In fact, neither Swayze nor Moore seems to have any friends or relatives at all.)

Swayze eventually manages to solve the mystery, with Goldberg's and Moore's help. And he benefits from a lesson in learning to move physical objects by concentrating with a grimace (just as Bill Cosby does in "Ghost Dad"), under the tutelage of Vincent Shiavelli, who offers a wonderful and all-too-small role as a territorial ghost who rides the subways.

Swayze, on the other hand, is called upon to do little more than look perplexed and/or frustrated, while Moore has lots of closeups as she cries. Goldberg is funny and brings the film to life single-handedly in her scenes, but she's so out of sync with the overall tone it's as if she wandered into the wrong movie.

"Ghost" is a mix of too many genres (the ending looks like the conclusion of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind") and a rather wrong-headed romance. We already know they can't get together.

If you want a ghost/mortal romance that does work, rent "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir."

"Ghost" offers only infrequent pleasures. It is rated PG-13, despite violence, sex, partial nudity, profanity and vulgarity.

- "VALMONT" is, of all things, a remake of "Dangerous Liaisons." In fact, "Valmont" came out within a year of "Dangerous Liaison's" release, though it comes to Salt Lake a bit late.

"Valmont" was directed by Milos Forman ("Amadeus") and is a lush, sumptuous period piece. The acting is also very good, though the Marquise de Merteuil (Annette Bening) is played quite a bit differently than Glenn Close's Oscar-nominated interpretation - but in its own way is equally satisfying.

The story is familiar, of course, a commentary on the decadence of 18th-century France, as aristocrats Valmont and the marquise plot the seduction of a 15-year-old innocent and a pious married woman.

The cast is first-rate, with Colin Firth as the title character, Meg Tilly as Madame de Tourvel, Fairuza Balk as Cecile, with able support from Jeffrey Jones, Henry Thomas - and even Vincent Shiavelli, whom we just cited as a "Ghost" cast member.

"Valmont" has many of the same inherent problems that plagued "Dangerous Liaisons," but if you haven't seen that film you may find some enjoyment here. And if you have, you may enjoy making comparisons. (The conclusion offers some specific changes with regard to major characters and may surprise you.)

"Valmont" is rated R for sex, nudity, violence and vulgarity.