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3 items from 1999

Film review: 'Runaway Bride'

26 July 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

"Runaway Bride" reteams Julia Roberts and Richard Gere with their "Pretty Woman" director Garry Marshall in hopes that the magic of that 1990 triumph will repeat itself. Remarkably, the actors have only gotten better looking with age, and there's no question the chemistry between them still works for a light romantic comedy. But an overcalculated, undernourished screenplay undermines much of the effort.

The stars, along with the momentum of Roberts' success with "Notting Hill" this summer, nearly guarantee good boxoffice for Paramount and Touchstone. How high the grosses go depends on audiences' willingness to tolerate lightheadedness that mistakes itself for lightheartedness.

The problem is that the linchpin holding the story in place in Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott's screenplay is awfully weak. In a way, it resembles a murder mystery in which nobody bothers to discover who killed Reginald in the library with a carving knife.

USA Today columnist Ike Graham (Gere) faces a deadline with no idea of what to write. A brief conversation with a guy in his favorite bar inspires him to write a column about Maggie Carpenter (Roberts), a Maryland woman who is a serial engager. She loves being engaged, but when she stares down a wedding aisle, she always runs away.

The column has a few inaccuracies, and Ike gets fired. So he heads for Hale, Md., on a free-lance assignment to cover Maggie's fourth attempt at marital bliss, thoroughly convinced that she will bolt again and it will somehow salvage his journalistic reputation.

Naturally, Maggie instantly dislikes the reporter who wants to humiliate her, and from that point, their relationship takes an all-too-predictable path to love.

Marshall and his writers cannot decide how seriously they want to treat their hero's chauvinism or their heroine's neuroses. They certainly don't want Gere to come off as a hardass or Roberts as a fruitcake. Charming eccentricity will do.

Thus, the filmmakers ignore even the most fundamental psychology and treat their characters' hang-ups -- such as the alcoholism of Maggie's father, her flirtation with her best friend's husband and Ike's failure with women -- as comic plot devices.

Nor is there any explanation of why the community of Hale so lovingly embraces the big-city journalist who smeared a local woman. "Runaway Bride" is determined to be a vehicle for its stars, showing little concern for design flaws in the vehicle itself.

Roberts and Gere are clearly enjoying themselves, and audiences may well shrug off the film's shortcomings to join in the good feelings. Marshall and his writers concoct occasional odd moments that satisfy, such as a barbershop quartet that includes the town's mayor, sheriff and the out-of-town journalist or a prenuptial luau that feels perfectly normal in rural Maryland.

The pixilated townsfolk have been seen in countless films and TV shows. But the actors -- including Joan Cusack, Paul Dooley, Christopher Meloni and Laurie Metcalf -- play the cliches with such energy that you can't help an occasional smile. Rita Wilson and Hector Elizondo turn up as Gere's ex-boss (and ex-wife) and her current husband, whose cozy relationship with Gere is never fully explored.

"Runaway Bride" is likable in the way a maiden aunt who lives in another era is likable at family gatherings. If enough activity and good-hearted feelings abound, no one is likely to notice she's a bit dotty.


Paramount Pictures/Touchstone Pictures

Interscope Communications

in association with Lakeshore Entertainment

Producers:Ted Field, Tom Rosenberg, Scott Kroopf, Robert Cort

Director:Garry Marshall

Writers:Josann McGibbon & Sara Parriott

Executive producers:Ted Tannebaum, David Madden, Gary Lucchesi

Director of photography:Stuart Dryburgh

Production designer:Mark Friedberg

Music:James Newton Howard

Costumer:Albert Wolsky

Editor:Bruce Green



Maggie Carpenter:Julia Roberts

Ike Graham:Richard Gere

Peggy:Joan Cusack

Fisher:Hector Elizondo

Ellie:Rita Wilson

Walter:Paul Dooley

Coach Bob:Christopher Meloni

Mrs. Pressman:Jane Morris

Mrs. Trout:Laurie Metcalf

Running time -- 116 minutes

MPAA rating: PG


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Film review: 'Never Been Kissed'

29 March 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

While "Never Been Kissed" isn't the first comedy about revisiting high school, it's the only one lucky enough to have Drew Barrymore in the lead.

A delightful, cringe-inducing trip back to one of the most awkward times in most people's lives -- except, perhaps, the captain of the football team and the head cheerleader -- the Fox release gets crowd-pleasing marks thanks largely to Barrymore's winning, fearlessly geeky performance.

Departing from traditional date-movie demos, "Kissed" should have men and women enthusiastically puckering up to big boxoffice effect.

Barrymore plays Josie Geller, a smart Chicago Sun-Times copy editor and charter member of the grammar police who's aching to have a Page 1 byline, not to mention her first real head-over-heels, toe-curling love affair.

She manages to get a shot at both thanks to an undercover assignment that has her returning to high school eight years after she graduated to report on the lives of today's teens.

Fear of being found out is significantly superseded by her terror of reliving a particularly painful adolescence. Not only was she a card-carrying, braces-wearing, first-class nerd, but her cruel classmates used to call her "Josie Grossie", a name incidentally coined by her cool brother Rob (David Arquette).

It appears history is about to repeat itself as Josie, eager to be accepted by any group, befriends the nice but geeky Aldys (Leelee Sobieski). Fortunately, thanks to a little push from her take-no-prisoners editor (Garry Marshall), the supportive presence of her cute and sensitive English teacher (Michael Vartan) and intervention from her brother, Josie ultimately prevails.

While the picture is essentially another Cinderella story for Barrymore, she makes it fresh thanks to her seemingly innocent ability to be thoroughly adorable without a trace of preciousness or cloying cuteness.

Her willingness to plumb the murkier depths of geekdom will have countless viewers squirming along with her when not laughing themselves silly.

She is surrounded by a very capable cast. Arquette puts in one of his most satisfying performances as her ever-popular brother. Sobieski, who could easily play Linda Hunt's kid sister, adeptly plays the part of the much-maligned overachiever who wears her glasses like a sheet of armor.

Also good is Marshall as Josie's big-stick-wielding editor; John C. Reilly as her weary, immediate boss; Molly Shannon as her guy-hungry co-worker; and Vartan as her smitten teacher.

Debuting screenwriters Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein exhibit knowing comic promise, while editor-turned-director Raja Gosnell ("Home Alone 3") gives everything just-right, appealing weight.

Although some of the serious passages can get a little squishy in the dialogue department, including an exchange between Barrymore and Vartan that unintentionally conjures up the name Lolita, the situations generally ring all too true.

Behind-the-camera performances are across-the-board pleasing, including great song cues -- a bit of Madonna here, a slice of Pat Benatar there, a marching band wrestling with the opening strains of "The Simpsons" theme -- that neatly sum up the eternally surreal high school experience.


20th Century Fox

Fox 2000 Pictures presents

A Flower Films/Bushawood Pictures production

Director: Raja Gosnell

Screenwriters: Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein

Producers: Sandy Isaac, Nancy Juvonen

Executive producer: Drew Barrymore

Director of photography: Alex Nepomniaschy

Production designer: Steven Jordan

Editors: Debra Chiate, Marcelo Sansevieri

Costume designer: Mona May

Music: David Newman

Music supervisors: Mary Ramos-Oden & Michele Kuznetsky

Casting: Justine Baddeley & Kim Davis



Josie Geller: Drew Barrymore

Rob Geller: David Arquette

Anita: Molly Shannon

Gus: John C. Reilly

Rigfort: Garry Marshall

Sam Coulson: Michael Vartan

Aldys: Leelee Sobieski

Running time -- 107 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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Film review: 'The Other Sister'

22 February 1999 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

At first glance, "The Other Sister" would appear to be a TV movie with loftier ambitions.

Fortunately, looks can occasionally be deceiving. A romantic comedy about love among the intellectually challenged, this potential crowd-pleaser earns its big-screen stripes thanks to its energetic, highly capable cast and some zesty direction by Garry Marshall that undercuts the soapier aspects with liberal jabs of unexpected humor.

Speaking of challenged, Touchstone's marketing staff certainly has their work cut out for themselves given the picture's tricky subject matter. But if they succeed in getting initial audiences through the door, enthusiastic word-of-mouth could translate into some respectable returns.

In a comeback of sorts, Juliette Lewis gives one of the most grounded, accomplished performances of her young career as the spirited Carla Tate, a somewhat mentally challenged 24-year-old determined to emerge from under the overprotective wing of her controlling mother, Elizabeth (Diane Keaton).

Having overcome many of her previous problems during her years away at a Special Ed boarding school, Carla returns home to her family a capable young woman despite a pronounced speech impediment and the occasional emotional outburst.

Eager to assert her newfound confidence, Carla enrolls herself in a regular tech college much to the protests of Elizabeth, who doesn't want to see her get hurt. There, Carla meets Danny (Giovanni Ribisi), a similarly challenged young man.

Living in his own apartment but under the supportive, watchful eye of neighbor Ernie (Hector Elizondo), Danny falls in love with Carla, and her resulting feeling of unconditional acceptance goes even further to fan the flames in a battle of wills between herself and her mother.

Lewis is wonderful in the role, breathing life into a character who is alternately compassionate and humorously endearing. Her quest for and ultimate achievement of her independence is registered in a series of personal awakenings that are reflected across her face like warm rays of sunshine.

Ribisi, recently seen in "Saving Private Ryan" and coming up as a member of the big-screen "Mod Squad", is equally adept at never pandering to what could have been a cloying character. Keaton, meanwhile, does a finely balanced job in portraying a person whose stubborn hardness is betrayed by her own admitted insecurities about her perception as an effective mother.

Also good are Tom Skerritt as Lewis' understanding, former alcoholic father and Poppy Montgomery and Sarah Paulson as her supportive sisters. And Juliet Mills, in a nod toward her "Nanny and the Professor" days, puts in a welcome appearance as the equally sympathetic Winnie, the family nanny.

Marshall, who also co-wrote the script with longtime collaborator Bob Brunner, accomplishes the not-so-easy feat of averting much of the potential pathos by mixing some well-paced comedy into all the confrontation. Occasionally, some of the material's more virtuously squishy aspects poke through, but for the most part, things are disarmingly upbeat.

Among the technical attributes, cinematographer Dante Spinotti, who received an Oscar nomination for his work on "L.A. Confidential", keeps it fairly bright and simple here, as does Stephen J. Lineweaver's production design and Rachel Portman's syrup-lite score.

On the tunes' end, the Pretenders' performance of the Diane Warren-penned "Loving You Is All I Know" sounds like a winner.


Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Touchstone Pictures

Director: Garry Marshall

Screenwriters: Garry Marshall & Bob Brunner

Story: Alexandra Rose & Blair Richwood and Garry Marshall & Bob Brunner

Producers: Mario Iscovich, Alexandra Rose

Executive producer: David Hoberman

Director of photography: Dante Spinotti

Production designer: Stephen J. Lineweaver

Editor: Bruce Green

Costume designer: Gary Jones

Music supervisor: Kathy Nelson

Music: Rachel Portman

Casting: Gretchen Rennell Court



Carla Tate: Juliette Lewis

Elizabeth Tate: Diane Keaton

Radley Tate: Tom Skerritt

Danny McMahon: Giovanni Ribisi

Caroline Tate: Poppy Montgomery

Heather Tate: Sarah Paulson

Drew: Linda Thorson

Jeff: Joe Flanigan

Winnie: Juliet Mills

Ernie: Hector Elizondo

Running time -- 124 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13


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