'Cradle' is both too long and too familiar


"The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" won't put you to sleep, but that isn't because the theme is a new one.

The new film uses the old plot about a loony who invites herself into a household and threatens the lives of its members.

Things go about the way you expect them to, but Curtis Hanson, who directed, manages to make it work.

In this instance, the loony is the widow of a doctor who had been sued for sexual harassment. The doctor, his reputation ruined, commits suicide; his widow wants revenge, and her target is the woman who brought the suit.

The widow becomes nanny to the woman's newborn child and, before long, tries to seduce the husband. She does other things, too, none of them unexpected. We all know someone is going to die, someone who discovers the woman's real identity before the woman's employers do. It's only a question of which character it will be.

We also know that the nanny is going to go mad when she is unmasked, but Hansen does some interesting things with this situation, and, in this instance, doesn't overdo.

The basic trouble with "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is that it goes on far longer than it should. A film of this sort should be no longer than 85 or 90 minutes. This one is 110 minutes long, which means we have to wait much longer for the mouse to turn on the cat.

Rebecca De Mornay is the widow who wants to take the woman's family away from her. Annabella Sciorra is the mother of the house and Mike Mitchell is the husband. They and Ernie Hudson, as a slow-witted handyman, give this yarn enough validity to carry it along.

The movie opens here today.

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