Jeremy Kagan | 1978 | 108 mins | USA
A very young and astonishingly charming Richard Dreyfuss stars as an ex Berkley activist turned private eye in this love letter to 1960s radicalism. Dreyfuss was riding the highest wave of his career, in the aftermath of Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goodbye Girl, so I guess it's no wonder that he plays the character of Moses Wise in this fun little crime-comedy with so much natural charm that you just want to pinch his cute, rosy cheeks all the goddamn time. After all, he was on top of the world!
Seriously though, the film is terrific. Moses Wine is a gumshoe and divorced dad who's perpetually late on support payments to his exasperated ex, Suzanne (Bonnie Bedelia). When former flame Lila Shay (Susan Anspach) comes back into his life and asks him to investigate possible sabotage on the campaign of one Miles Hawthorne, a dull liberal running for Governor of California, everything goes haywire.
It seems that someone has been passing around fake flyers on which '60s radical Howard Eppis (now living underground after a famous conviction) is shown endorsing Hawthorne. Since associating with a known criminal and wanted man could sink the whole campaign, Moses is sent off by ambitious campaign manager Sam Sebastian (John Lithgow) to find the elusive Eppis.
Eppis (F. Murray Abraham) is a prankster activist whose appearance and notoriety were obviously modeled after real-life radical Abbie Hoffman (who was living underground at the time the film was made), with a bit of Weathermen-esque violence thrown in for good measure. As Moses draws closer to Eppis and to the answers, a torrent of nostalgia for the '60s rains down upon the film so intensely that you're gonna miss the good old days even if you weren't even a glimmer in your hippie mom's eye at the time.
I could easily watch a series of five or six Moses Wise films, in which the pot-smoking P.I. takes his kids on stakeouts and solves mysteries in his yellow convertible VW Bug.
Halfway through this film my movie date turned to me and asked "who's the Richard Dreyfuss of today?", and I have to admit we were both stumped. Please weigh in on this important question, loyal readers.