Although it’s ultimately quite harmless, there’s little to recommend in The Barefoot Executive, a live-action Disney movie set in the world of TV-network corporate offices. A quick recitation of the plot explains why the movie is such a dubious proposition: Ambitious TV-network page Steven Post (Kurt Russell) discovers that his girlfriend’s pet chimpanzee has infallible instincts for picking which TV shows will get high ratings, so Steven pretends he’s actually picking the shows and thus climbs the network hierarchy. As penned by sure Disney hand Joseph L. McEveety, the script isn’t quite as insipid as the story suggests, since McEveety keeps things moving quickly and zeroes in on Steven’s moral conflict about lying to his bosses and exploiting his simian sidekick. That said, it’s a movie about a chimp picking TV shows, so there’s only so high up the ladder of quality a movie with this premise can ascend, particularly since McEveety doesn’t go far enough with the satire implied by the set-up. Russell, at this point just a few years away from aging out of juvenile roles, does fairly well in the emotional scenes, though he’s still operating inside the golly-gee-whiz confines of exuberant Disney-kid acting. Nobody else in the movie gets anything interesting to do, so Disney regular Joe Flynn overcompensates with his standard exasperated-nincompoop routine and the normally reliable Harry Morgan shouts his way through an uncharacteristically obnoxious performance. As Steven’s girlfriend, leading lady Heather North is forgettable, and as his main nemesis, future TV star John Ritter is enjoyably fussy if not in any way exceptional. The chimp is cute, though.
The Barefoot Executive: LAME