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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

2 Twins, 2 Stars, 2 Hours, Too Bad

Low expectations can be a wonderful thing. Indeed, dread is a marvelous quickener, making us receptive to the slightest glint of good in the midst of an expected horror. A family gathering suddenly seems delightful when only a few of the anticipated psychodramas emerge; a prisoner being led out to execution is pierced by the beauty of a patch of grass; and a cloddish Kremlin authoritarian becomes a beacon of Jeffersonian light when one considers the alternative. Expecting the worst, we are sometimes pleasantly disappointed.

And to be sure, it is with the lowest of expectations that one approaches "It Takes Two," now playing at the Americom House of Cinema. The latest vehicle for the financial aggrandizement of the parents and retainers of television child stars Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen, the movie is the crown jewel of an empire that includes books, toys, videos, clothes and other sundries aimed at the pre-teen pocketbook. The twin tycoons are joined here by adult stars Kirstie Alley, late of the sitcom "Cheers," and that always entrancing cinematic heartthrob, Steve "My Grin Is My Glory" Guttenberg. Yes, the net is definitely down with this one, and all they need do to win our favor is to tap the ball ever so slightly across the painted line.

They fail, and you can't even say they tried very hard. The plot involves two unrelated but identical girls who meet accidentally, then swap places in order to bring one girl's father (Guttenberg) and the other girl's guardian (Alley) together to make a nice family for all. But there are complications, of course: It seems the father is engaged to someone else, while the guardian -- oh, never mind. Summarizing such a plot only makes you a partner in its tedium.

Alley, an old hand at the kind of romantic dreck being attempted here, merely walks through her role, but at least she steps with assurance. She gets off the only few lines in the entire script that might pass for wit (if one were on the crest of an epic drunk, perhaps) and is generally as inoffensive as she is unengaging. Guttenberg, who is to romantic leading men what Velveeta is to cheese, is squirted harmlessly onto the confection and attracts little notice. The supporting parts are a load of washed-out cartoons, badly drawn and badly played.

As for the Olsen twins: No American parent with children under 12 can possibly have avoided some contact with their saccharine sitcom, "Full House." And no one who has seen them can avoid the conclusion that the two young ladies simply cannot act; they make Macaula Culkin look like Marlon Brando. Their range extends from unbearably cute to overbearingly cute, with a little bit of huffy in between, while their often-incomprehensible voices are like the Chipmunks on helium. They might do well dressing up an occasional scene as two little girls at play (out of earshot) on the lawn, but asking them to carry an entire movie is like asking Dan Quayle to be president of the United States: They just ain't up to it.

"It Takes Two" is touted as a children's movie, but it seems odd to think a parent would want to expose a child to such insipidness. Why cloud an eager, impressionable mind by pointing to drivel like this and saying, "See, this is funny, this is what you should be satisfied with"? It might turn them into good consumers, perhaps, willing to accept whatever trend or product is pushed on them by advertisers and politicians, but it also stunts their sense of fun and dulls their wits with tedious noise. Rent "The Little Princess" instead, turn on "Bugs Bunny," beguile them with entertainments that have at least a spark of genuine emotion and playful zest -- elements which you could never find, not even with a microscope, in "It Takes Two."

"It Takes Two" shows Wednesday through Monday and May 9 to 12 at the Americom House of Cinema in the Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel, 2 Berezhkovskaya Nab. Metro: Kievskaya. Tel. 981-8747.