Film: "Pure Country"

Stars: George Strait, Lesley Ann Warren and Isabel Glasser

Theaters: Movies 8, Eastland Southroads, Cinema 8 (Broken

Arrow, Sand Springs)

Rating: R (mild violence and mild profanity)

Quality: TWO 1/2 STARS (on a scale of zero to four stars)

"Pure Country," the first movie to star country superstar

George Strait, is as full of comfortable cliches, traditional

values and unabashed sentimentality as a double-album set

of country-music golden oldies.

It's aimed not only for the heart, but for the heartland

as well, that area between the coasts that's less cosmopolitan,

less cynical and more willing to not only accept, but be

satisfied by, a simple, sentimental and old-fashioned story

like this one.

Strait plays a bearded, ponytailed country superstar named

Dusty, who's a slightly seedier version of Strait himself.

Dusty's at the top of his game, selling out giant venues

with his state-of-the-art stage show.

But Dusty's not happy. As he tells his longtime manager,

Lula (Lesley Ann Warren), "I'm tired. I'm tired of all

the smoke and the lights. It ain't me."

Then he has a conversation with another long-term chum,

Earl (John Doe), his band's drummer. They reminisce about

going to a carnival and seeing a dancing chicken, who danced

because his owner heated up the stage floor.

"Wonder why that ol' chicken just didn't jump off the stage?"

asks Earl, and the Metaphor of the Dancing Chicken makes

its impression on Dusty, who takes a walk and ends up back

on the Texas plains, where he runs into a beautiful young

cowgirl (Isabel Glasser) and her family (led by a cadaverous-looking

Rory Calhoun, who turns in one of the movie's finest acting

jobs).

Meanwhile, the show must go on, and when showtime comes

and there's no Dusty, Lula is forced to take drastic measures.

These two storylines weave along until they're brought together,

satisfactorily and sentimentally, at film's end.

The idea of the star (or heiress, or prince, or whatever)

wandering away from an exalted position to mingle with the

ordinary folks is hardly a new one in movies. It's an idea,

though, that lends itself especially well to country music,

where it's de rigeur for even the biggest star to continually

acknowledge his roots.

And while acting honors here go to Calhoun, Warren and,

interestingly enough, Doe (a former member of the famed

punk band X), Strait isn't half bad. In fact, he allows

his on-screen persona a smattering of vulnerability and

just a touch of goofiness in with all the prairie cool.

First-time screenwriter Rex McGee hasn't done anything very

original here, and the direction of Christopher Cain ("Young

Guns," "That Was Then, This Is Now") can get pretty poky

from time to time. But Strait and Glasser are an engaging

couple, the music (including a couple of tunes from that

great eclectic ensemble, the Cactus Brothers) is good, and

there's a comforting old-fashioned feeling to the whole

thing.

You always know that you're being manipulated by "Pure

Country," and you're usually pretty sure what's going to

happen next. Still, chances are fairly good you'll leave

the theater smiling when it's over, humming one of the sentimental

songs this slight, warm little movie leaves in your heart.