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Starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Gerard Depardieu, Haley Joel Osment, Nancy Travis Directed by: Norman Jewison Written by: Alvin Sargent Rated PG Running Time: 1 hour, 52 minutes

Whoopi Goldberg is primarily known for her brash style of delivery. Her performances never feel like they're pandering to the audience's emotions. Her characters say what they think, do what they please, and react without much thought into the consequences. She never seems to try and evoke an emotional response from the viewer. Yet at the same time, she can display a face of vulnerability as well as any actor I've ever seen. She can do it effortlessly. People generally don't give her credit for being able to do that, even though she did it to perfection in Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple". She's just not thought of that way, although she's as good as anyone at being vulnerable on screen.

She has a couple of moments like that in Norman Jewison's "Bogus", a whimsical story about a young boy dealing with pain and finding the path to emotional strength and well-being. Goldberg plays Harriet, a hard-working middle class woman whose life is suddenly turned upside down when she must take in the son of a childhood friend whom she hasn't seen in years. Her life is way too busy for a child. The boy is named Albert, and is played winningly by Haley Joel Osment. Since birth, he's been living in Las Vegas, which has been a kind of fantasy world for Albert, what with all the sparkle and glitter. Albert is extremely bright and very articulate, perhaps from spending time in a world where to a child, anything is possible. He believes this, and even desires to one day be a famous magician. But things soon change when he has to move to Newark. He doesn't take the change well, and neither does Harriet. They both need to reach deep inside themselves to find the strength to accept those changes, discover the courage within themselves, and embrace life one day at a time. They get some assistance with this task from an unusual "friend" named Bogus (Gerard Depardieu).

Those who enjoy tightly constructed story lines may have a problem with "Bogus". The story tends to meander quite a bit, and may frustrate those who enjoy linear story lines. Alvin Sargent's script is not grounded in reality, but rather takes several flights of fancy. This is not a movie for cynics or realists. It's basically told from the child's perspective, and views it's surroundings with an innocent eye and a vivid imagination. The result is a movie that is good, but doesn't quite rise to the level of greatness. One of the reasons is that despite a couple of nice moments from Goldberg, we never really get to know all that much about her character. We know her life is very hectic, but we don't get much insight into her past, which could have given the film more of an emotional "punch" at it's conclusion. What really holds the film together is the performance of Gerard Depardieu, as Bogus. He combines paternal-like love and advice with a goofy, playful innocence. He's a treat to watch.

A willing suspension of disbelief is required to enjoy most movies. It is an absolute must here. Watching "Bogus" is like watching a magic show - not one of those gargantuan David Copperfield-like magic shows, but a simple one put on at a child's birthday party. To get the most out of it, you have to be willing to let yourself get the most out of it. Maybe life is the same way.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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