Movie Review By Monica Sullivan
When Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable were signed to make "It Happened One Nights" both were under the impression that they were being punished. For Colbert, a hot Paramount star, & Gable, an even hotter MGM star, to be working at lowly Columbia studios did not seem like much of a career move for either of them. Colbert complained to her friends about what a terrible picture the film was, and she thought so little of her chances of winning an Academy Award that she only received her Oscar in person because she was whisked to the ceremonies at the last minute. 65 years later, of course, "It Happened One Night" has achieved masterpiece status. Gable's hard-boiled reporter and Colbert's wisecracking runaway bride were a tough act to follow, although Columbia tried twice more to duplicate their bristling magic with Ann Miller and William Wright in "Eve Knew Her Apples" in 1945 and with June Allyson and Jack Lemmon in "You Can't Run Away From It" in 1956. But directors Will Jason and Dick Powell weren't Frank Capra, and neither is Garry Marshall.
Ah, Garry Marshall, director of such cinematic triumphs as "Overboard," "Exit to Eden" and now this 1999 screwball comedy wannabe. Yech: Julia Roberts as the updated "Runaway Bride." No. Richard Gere as the updated cynical journalist. No. Gere is a columnist for USA TODAY, which receives front and center product placement. Does anyone actually scour USA TODAY for the columns? I thought people just skimmed the headlines, looked at the pictures and then tossed the paper where the sun don't shine. But in the altered reality here, Gere's columnist is famous. He picks up a story about a runaway bride from a guy in a bar and runs it verbatim without checking a single fact. Roberts threatens to sue, so Gere's ex-wife, who is also his boss, fires him. But the boss' current husband, who also toils at USA TODAY, feels sorry for Gere and tries to get him re-hired. The ex-wife and the husband-in-law are played by Rita Wilson and Hector Elizondo, and they are supposed to be almost as cute as Roberts and Gere. Ahem.
With this excruciating set-up, are you beginning to get the idea? Gere and Roberts meet as she's on husband-to-be number four and the rest of the movie is all about how the top-billed cuties get together. The only one in the movie who is really cute, of course, is Joan Cusack as the runaway bride's long-suffering best friend. It isn't much of a part, but Cusack suffuses every syllable of her crappy dialogue with the only honest emotions in this dreary flick. The best screwball comedies are paced like lightning, but they require enormous care and effort to play that way. For more information, read Frank Capra's THE NAME ABOVE THE TITLE. He'll explain how to do them successfully. Garry Marshall can only show you how relentness cuteness leads to failures and interminable failures at that. Garry Marshall's aptly-titled tome "Wake Me When It's Funny" is now available at bookstores everywhere.
© 1999 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 7/28/99
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