Q CLEARANCE by Peter Benchley
Kirkus Star

Q CLEARANCE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A departure for Benchley, who sheds his swim trunks (Jaws, The Island, The Deep, The Girl of the Sea of Cortez) for a pin-striped suit in this amiable, low-key comedy of White House intrigue. Timothy Burnham, presidential speechwriter, bumbles his way from day to day. His daughter worships Mao, his wife despises his job, his chief concern is what phrase to put in the President's mouth for low-level proclamations to which no one pays any attention. That is, until the day he inexplicably receives ""Q Clearance""--access to top-secret atomic energy materials. Suddenly Burnham (wearing split pants stapled together) is jawing with the President (a blustering type with a taste for crude backwoods sayings), toying with the new shredder installed in his office, and unwittingly supplying classified documents to Foster Pym, an inept Soviet spy. When Burnham writes a doozy of a toast for the visiting Pasha of Banda and then defuses an international crisis ignited when a boatload of transsexuals defect to Cuba, he earns the enmity of Mario Epstein, the President's amoral special assistant, but finds himself richly rewarded by the Man Himself, who installs Burnham in the west wing of the White House as ""Special Assistant to the President for Perspective."" Meanwhile, dumped by his wife, our bewildered hero is having a fling with Pym's gorgeous daughter Eva. The whole pauper-to-prince routine comes crashing down--in a fluttery, no-damage-done sort of way--when Joseph Mengele is captured in the South American jungle with a female companion who turns out to be Pym's ex-wife. Pym confesses to ABC News, Burnham disappears to Presidential applause. None of this makes very much sense, but it all holds together under Benchley's relaxed direction. The upshot, an unassuming lark, makes for a pleasant anodyne to the techno-gore of a generation of high-powered Washington thrillers. Sure, the dialogue is as wooden as George Washington's teeth, the psychological insight thin. Warmed-over characters abound: the self-important President (picture Ted Knight), the bright young man trying to make sense of nonsense (Tom Hanks), the cute female spy who doesn't feel quite right about what she's doing (Margot Kidder). So why do we get the feeling that someone will make a movie (if not a mint) from this confection?

Pub Date: June 18th, 1986
Publisher: Random House