A Smile Like Yours (1997)

reviewed by
James Sanford

There are thousands of terrific ideas to base a movie on. Infertility, however, is not one of them. But like anxious would-be parents, Hollywood keeps on trying. Gene Wilder futilely tried to make light of it in the forgettable ``Funny About Love,'' and now Greg Kinnear and Lauren Holly struggle to mine impotence for laughs in ``A Smile Like Yours,'' a tepid attempt at heartwarming comedy.

Despite its setting in contemporary San Francisco and a few moments of mild raunchiness, most of ``Smile'' plays like a vintage Doris Day vehicle. Jennifer (Holly) and Danny (Kinnear) are blissfully married, but she wants a child.

When Jennifer's still not in the family way after hundreds of attempts, the tensions between the two threaten to send Danny out of the fertility center and into the waiting arms of man-trap Lindsey (Jill Hennessy).

Writers Kevin Meyer and Keith Samples present a cornucopia of cliches old (the out-of-town business trip that's mistaken for an affair) and new (another karaoke scene, far inferior to the one in ``My Best Friend's Wedding''). If you hadn't bought a ticket and weren't sitting in a theater, you'd swear you were watching an extended TV sitcom.

Jennifer's quest for motherhood comes off as borderline maniacal, although it's supposed to be poignant and humorous. There are moments when the movie threatens to turn into a comic ``Fatal Attraction,'' which would have put some needed spice into this pablum. Similarly, a cameo by Shirley MacLaine and a twisted spoof of bargain-basement airlines near the end of the film are nice touches, but don't develop into anything.

Only Joan Cusack rises above the material. Cast as Jennifer's partner in a perfume shop where people actually say things like ``Wow, the Elysian sunflower is a nice touch!,'' Cusack has a miserable part - she's in love with a mortician, setting the stage for a string of sophomoric dead-guy jokes. But Cusack's played the best friend so many times now, nobody can do it with more finesse.

Affable and deep-dimpled Kinnear, forced to do jokes about masturbation and rectal exams, muddles through as best he can. After a bright debut in ``Sabrina,'' Kinnear has floundered; hopefully his juicy role as a troubled artist in director James L. Brooks' upcoming ``Old Friends'' will better serve his talent.

As for Holly, she's fallen victim to a terminal case of Shelley Long Syndrome, the misconception that wide-eyed cutesy-poo acting is adorable. Jennifer can't just walk across a room - she minces or scampers, generally with a coy expression on her oh-so-darling face. Perhaps someone should warn her that once you have a baby, you can't be the baby.

James Sanford

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