Iconic dead celebrities have long offered guidance to the cinematically lovelorn, conflicted, and just plain confused. A fellow resembling Humphrey Bogart helped Woody Allen figure out women in Play It Again Sam, Alec Guinness' Sigmund Freud advised Dudley Moore's psychiatrist in Lovesick, and now Kyle MacLachlan's debonair Cary Grant guides Jimi Mistry through generic romantic travails in the desperate new comedy Touch Of Pink.
A tepid variation on the rash of cartoonishly drawn Indian-Anglo culture-clash comedies afflicting both sides of the Atlantic, the film casts Mistry as an adult Londoner of Pakistani descent who still hasn't come out to his tradition-bound, status-obsessed mother (Sue Mathew). When Mathew comes to London to visit, Mistry and his English boyfriend (Kristen Holden-Read) try to preserve the illusion of heterosexuality, but a montage of Holden-Read and Mathew bonding while hitting the city's top tourist destinations suggests she might not be as reactionary and simpleminded as she appears.
Throughout it all, MacLachlan serves as Mistry's constant companion, an undead mixture of guardian angel, performance coach, and the Great Gazoo from The Flintstones. It's Dead Eye For The Queer Guy as MacLachlan's strangely sexless ghost tutors Mistry, but it's a mystery how someone learning from cinema's archetypal dashing sophisticate could turn out to be such a charmless, witless gray cloud of a man. It's equally perplexing as to why MacLachlan would choose to spend his time with such a dreary schmuck: Obviously, he's an undead glutton for punishment.
MacLachlan clearly did his homework. He nails the movie star's upright bearing and voice, but since the filmmakers integrate him into the action so haphazardly, his performance never transcends impersonation, and his one-liners inevitably fall flat. Instead of honoring the legacy of MacLachlan's legendary matinee idol, the film banishes him to cinematic hell: playing wise-cracking second fiddle to a droopy sad sack in a forgettable romantic comedy. Dead or alive, he deserves more.