by Tony Medley
After viewing an appallingly
unenticing trailer, I had no desire to see this. New Line Cinema gave me a
break by failing to send me an invite to the screening, so I had an out.
But I went to see it anyway, with no expectations of enjoyment. As a
result I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to discover that it wasn’t as
bad as I had anticipated.
The story is simple. Charlie
(Jennifer Lopez), a dog-walker, falls in love with Kevin (Michael Vartan),
a doctor who always needs a shave. Kevin is described by Remy (a
funny-looking Adam Scott), Charlie’s gay friend, as “hot.” Well, I didn’t
think he was hot. Neither did my date, who knows a “hot” guy when she sees
one (because, frankly, I don’t). Kevin’s mother, Viola Fields (Jane
Fonda), is an oft-married, just fired, world famous TV interviewer. Viola
is just coming out of being institutionalized for a breakdown on national
TV and is violently opposed to her son marrying Charlie.
The result is predictable.
Kevin goes away and leaves Viola in Charlie’s care, as manipulated by
Viola so she can screw things up between them. There are some laughs, but
not enough to offset some disgraceful attempts at comedy by writer Anya
Kochoff and director Robert Luketic. Like “Hitch” earlier this year, there
is a reprehensible scene relying on a food allergy as comedy. While movies
are entertainment, they should also educate. It is a disservice to show
Viola trying to induce an allergic reaction in Charlie by inserting
almonds in some gravy to get Charlie to unknowingly ingest them. Anyone
with a food allergy can die from ingesting a food to which they are
allergic. It’s not funny. It’s life-threatening. After Charlie does eat
the gravy and has a reaction, she is just worried about swelling up,
fearing she might look bad. Worse, her fiancé, Kevin, is a doctor! He
would know that the first thing that should be done would be to rush her
to the emergency room. But, no, it’s all treated as laughs. Kevin
reassures her that her face will eventually look OK, even though Charlie
awakens the next day with a bloated face. She’s lucky it wasn’t a bloated
trachea blocking her airway killing her. Kevin’s lucky, too, because he
would have been responsible since a doctor would have known better. But
not according to the mindless Luketic and Kochoff.
Luketic and Kochoff compound
this felony by inserting one of the hoariest comedy routines extant, a
takeoff on alphonse & gaston straight from vaudeville’s interpretation of
the comic strip. When Viola’s assistant, Ruby (Wanda Sykes, the best thing
in the movie) discovers Viola’s diabolical plan, she tries to prevent it
and convinces Viola it’s not a good idea. As Dr. Chamberlain (Stephen
Dunham), a waiter posing as a doctor for Viola to convince Kevin and
Charlie that Viola is really sick, takes the gravy in to serve it to
Charlie and the others, instead of immediately rushing out to stop it,
Viola and Ruby engage in the “You do it; no, you do it; no, you do it”
routine so that neither goes to save Charlie.
That’s not all. There is
another reprehensible scene of Viola and Charlie slapping each other in
the face time and again. The swings are big and the sounds are like bombs.
Forget the unfunny, brutal spectacle of the violence of two women beating
on each other, these women don’t get a mark on their faces, not even one
little hint of red.
Wait, there’s more. Charlie
gives Viola a pill that causes her to go into a deep sleep, which she does
by passing out with her face in the soup. Charlie walks out without a
second thought, and that’s supposed to be funny. If Viola passed out with
her head in the soup, the chances are that she’d drown. But in the morning
her head is still in the soup, when Ruby awakens her, none the worse for
wear. In order to be funny, something has to have some connection with
reality. If Luketic (who delighted his first time out with the charming
“Legally Blonde” in 2001) and Kochoff have to fall back on such unfunny,
antediluvian routines, they should learn another trade.
Further burdening the film is
the total absence of any chemistry between Charlie and Kevin, maybe
because there’s no reason for them to fall in love other than her physical
beauty and the fact that he’s a wealthy doctor. While those might satisfy
Hollywood, love needs more to bloom. And without more, one finds it hard
to buy the rest of the film.
best reason to see this film is to see the performance of Wanda Sykes,
which is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast, including the
infamous Ms. Fonda. To her credit, Jane, who gives a workmanlike
performance, eschewed the Doris Day Filter for most of the film. Her lined
face clearly showed her years.
May 14, 2005