A Sidney Pollack film; Columbia Pictures. Directed by Sidney Pollack.

Cinema should never be taken too seriously. Films, after all, are only moving, talking pictures that reflect the views and tastes of those who make them. Viewers looking for answers to “why?” questions will be frustrated.

Since Tootsie makes no pretension to “importance” it will not disappoint those who only want to laugh. It is a fast-paced cinematic sitcom, done with style. Sidney Pollack has created a role for Dustin Hoffman: male and female created he him. Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey, a talented but uncooperative actor nobody will hire anymore. But dressed as Dorothy Michaels, he lands a part on a popular soap opera and becomes an overnight celebrity. This situation is then milked for all it is worth for over two hours.

Thanks in part to an all-star makeup staff, Hoffman is convincing as a woman. The posture, mannerisms—even the way he/she falls down become believable. The baby-sitting scenes are among the best; others are predictable, most are funny. Possibly more sympathetic is Bill Murray as Hoffman’s roommate, a struggling playwright, author of such evocative works as Return to Love Canal. He is Tootsie’s conscience and guide through the complications. Jessica Lange (nominated for an Oscar), Charles Durning, and others provide good support.

A bonus in all this is the romp through the mindless world of television, with its TelePrompTers, ratings game, and viewers so lobotomized by soap operas that they take the characters as being real. Here, Tootsie surely holds up a mirror to life.

Tootsie bogs down when it attempts to be mildly serious about issues of sexual roles. Thankfully, the film is not a tract. The PG rating should be taken seriously, though. There are plenty of what reviewers call “adult situations” and language. Funny, but not hilarious, Tootsie requires suspension of disbelief on several points. Much is contrived, and the payoff may be a letdown. But if the premise is accepted, Tootsie deserves consideration by those wishing to watch a master actor and enjoy some laughs along the way.

Reviewed by Lloyd Billingsley, a writer living in Southern California.

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