Somewhere in the tangled mess that is "Just the Ticket" there is the kernel of an intriguing story, but most viewers aren't going to be willing to work that hard to get to it.
A tale of faith and redemption set in the turf-warring world of New York ticket scalpers, the schizophrenic picture has serious trouble deciding what it wants to be when it comes to picking a genre.
One thing's certain: Those expecting to see Andy Garcia and Andie MacDowell in a romantic comedy based on recent TV ads are being sold a bill of goods by MGM's hit-starved marketing department. All others will be lining up to buy their tickets elsewhere.
Garcia certainly works hard to be credible as Gary Starke, a somewhat dumpy, streetwise New York ticket scalper who plays unofficial den mother to a group of career street merchants.
Gary's not coping too well with being dumped by girlfriend Linda (MacDowell), a department store salesperson with cordon bleu culinary aspirations, and he's finding that his ticket-hawking technique isn't very effective when it comes to trying to win back the love of his life.
Complicating matters, a smooth operator named Casino (Andre Blake) has arrived from Miami and is intent on moving in on Gary's turf just as an Easter Mass visit by the Pope at Yankee Stadium looks to be his ticket to regaining Linda's heart.
The inherent problem with all this is simply that despite the cute-sounding Andy-Andie pairing, there is never any tangible spark that would indicate that the two were ever meant to be together.
Garcia, playing a part that feels like a Pacino castoff, gets the bit as the lowlife with higher aspirations right, but he isn't able to deliver the star charisma necessary to take the audience along with him.
A pouty MacDowell, meanwhile, merely comes across as cold and self-interested. Richard Bradford fares better in the sympathy department as Gary's lonely, one-time mentor Benny, and it's fun spotting such seldom-seen supporting players as Irene Worth
, Elizabeth Ashley, Ron Leibman
, Abe Vigoda
, Don Novello
and Bill Irwin. And boxing legend Joe Frazier
puts in a key cameo.
Writer-director Richard Wenk
has clearly done his homework, and the untapped ticket-scalping milieu is a potentially interesting one, much in the way poker-playing fueled "Rounders".
But his constant shifts between quirky comedy, bleak street realism and fluffy romance feel forced and awkwardly implemented rather than functioning as integrated parts of a thematic whole.
The picture's technical heart is in the right place thanks to the Cassavetes-inspired camerawork of Ellen Kuras
, who shot "I Shot Andy Warhol", and Franckie Diago's lean, gritty production design.
JUST THE TICKET
MGM Distribution Co.
United Artists Pictures presents
a CineSon production
Director-screenwriter: Richard Wenk
Producers: Gary Lucchesi
and Andy Garcia
Executive producers: Andie MacDowell, Yoram Pelman
Director of photography: Ellen Kuras
Production designer: Franckie Diago
Editor: Christopher Cibelli
Costume designer: Susan Lyall
Music: Rick Marotta
Casting: Amanda Mackey
Johnson and Cathy Sandrich
Gary: Andy Garcia
Linda: Andie MacDowell
Benny: Richard Bradford
Mrs. Palinsky: Elizabeth Ashley
Zeus: Fred Asparagus
Casino: Andre Blake
San Diego Vinnie: Patrick Breen
Running time -- 115 minutes
MPAA rating: R