Allen of UPN-TV
Hey Whore, how's
the whoring? According to this week's Quote Whore:
Ready to Rumble is "RElentlessly funny. Bone
And that quote
alone is all the proof you need about Mark S. Allen
Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights fucking reserved.
Return to Me
"But Five Fingers if you work in a Hallmark shop!"
Nothing I can say about "Return to Me" should mean
more than that the best thing about it is James Belushi. That's
great news for Belushi fans, but bad news for those of us who
get to use real scissors and who don't have to wear helmets whenever
we go outside. Beyond Belushi, everything in this painful piece
of sticky-sweet shit is bad. Bad, boring, bad, so fucking boring
that sometimes I could barely hear the dialog over the snores
from nearby moviegoers.
"Return to Me" is set up to be a "chick-flick"
but that's a fucking insult. The women I know hate this kind
of horseshit. Maybe a woman who grew up in a closet with nothing
but Holly Hobbie dolls and old "Love is..." comic strips
will dig it, but anyone with a grasp on reality will want to
pound the snot out of the characters five minutes in. Fifteen
minutes in I wanted to leave, and now I realize I should have.
David Duchovny is a successful construction guy (designer,
architect, engineer, construction foreman? The movie never bothers
to make this clear), and his wife is a popular zoologist who
taught a gorilla sign language. They are the sappy shallow-minded
screenwriter's idea of perfection. In their ten minutes together
we get more moments of cuteness than you'd expect ourside of
one of Nora Ephron's self-congratulatory disasters.
Anyway, the comedy part of this "romantic-comedy"
really takes off when the wife is killed in a car crash from
which Duchovny comes away with nothing more than some very attractive
blood smears on his cheek and shirt. That same night, the equally
perfect Minnie Driver goes into the hospital for a heart transplant
and receives Duchovny's wife's heart. Minnie lives with her Irish
grandfather, a fat old stereotype who vomits sugary sweet wisdom
every time his mouth opens. He owns an Irish/Italian restaurant
with his equally stereotyped old Italian friend, Ray Loggia.
The restaurant is full of other old farts who are walking Hallmark
greeting cards, not real people. They argue over who was the
best ballplayer or who was the best singer. They are written
by people who have only seen old people on PAX TV reruns of "Touched
by an Angel."
What the fuck more needs to be said? You can guess exactly
where this contrived bit of story telling is headed. What you
can't guess is how suspenseless it is. It's like watching two
trains approaching each other on a single track for two hours.
There is nothing that could possibly happen except for the trains
to collide. There are obligatory "bad" blind date for
Driver and Duchovny before they fall in love with each other.
These dates are supposed to be funny, I'm guessing, but they
aren't. They're like every other bad blind date in every other
corny romance about two people doomed to meet.
Duchovny and Driver meet in a "cute" way, guided
by the chorus of stereotyped sidekicks. They bond and she gets
along with his dog and his wife's old gorilla pal. At first she's
afraid to tell him about her new heart. I have no fucking idea
why, but this movie expects us to think guys are scared off by
a lady who has had surgery. I'm not, I'm attracted by them because
major surgeries usually result in vulnerability, and that means
an asshole like me has a chance.
After she learns it's his wife's old heart ticking around
in her chest Driver's sure he will bolt, but she steels herself
and tells him. In real life, a guy would say "Wow, that's
weird," and then try to see the scar. In this movie, that
little piece of information is a big fucking deal. Huge. Enormous.
It is supposed to provide enough tension to drive two hours of
Driver and Duchovny overreact to the "big" revelation
and run away from each other. Then the question is, will they
or won't they get back together. I won't tell you if they do
or not because that will spoil the surprise ending. I know I
sure didn't expect a hot four-way orgy. Oops.
Consider a few things about how this movie was made. The song
"Return to Me" is played twice within the first fifteen
minutes. We see gauzy flashbacks of Duchovny's wife only ten
minutes after seeing the scene that is being flashbacked to.
As Duchovny's obligatory black best friend, David Allan Grier
is either expected to be a serious actor or a comic relief character
with nothing funny to do.
I would rather have blood in my urine than spend time with
any of "Return to Me's" characters. They're all straight
out of the Lifetime Channel Original Movie bin, where reality
is irrelevant. We just need to be beat over the head with how
good they are. There is no shading, no gray area, just sweetness
and light. Driver's character is spunky, we know this because
she rides a bike and even races two kids, who don't seem to be
trying very hard. Other than the spunk, there is not a single
thing about her that's memorable. Duchovny is such a good guy
he builds a new gorilla habitat for free because he promised
it to his wife. Other than that, he's as memorable as Driver.
The old people are spunky and act like stupid fucking children
because that's how it all works in this Hallmark world. Every
piece of shit that falls from their mouths is wise and "cute."
Well, fuck the moviemakers. Why don't they just pull a cart of
horseshit up to my mouth and shovel it in. It'd be less painful.
The makers have never seen senile old ladies in stained pants
fighting over polyester blouses at the thrift store. "Return
to Me" insults old people because it doesn't believe for
a moment that they are capable of doing anything but being adorable.
There is hardly a moment in this movie where a character does
what a real person would do. It's like the movie set out to defy
all sense of logic. The characters are drawn like magnets to
the ending, no matter how illogical or stupid it is.
In "True Stories" by David Byrne, a great movie
from the mid-80s, there is a character who says "I can't
afford to let that kind of sadness into my life." Only by
ignoring sadness can she be happy, and if sadness gets in she's
afraid she will never restore her precious balance. That's what
this movie is trying to do, hide life's sadness, hoping nobody
notices that living is mostly a difficult process full of disappointment.
And I'm not just saying that because I lost fifty cents in a
vending machine this morning (although, that has fucked up my
Some fairy tales are good, but not when they defy all logic.
And isn't a happy ending more powerful when it follows sadness,
trial and hard work? Was director Bonnie Hunt afraid that any
hint of sadness would drive moviegoers to suicide?
This is Hunt's first crack at directing, and I hope she is
sent to basic cable, or she learns some new tricks. The movie
looks dull, like it used the leftover sets from a bad 50s "West
Side Story" ripoff. She doesn't have anything new to say
or show us in Chicago. In fact, it might as well be Buttfuck,
Arizona for what the setting is worth. And the actors seem almost
uniformly embarrassed by the material. They hold back, not wanting
to look like they actually believe the tired, corny shit they
say. Duchovny mumbles and pouts his way through the whole mess.
This guy has the charisma of drywall. Driver gives off the aura
of an after-school special actor, all pale and sickly before
surgery, and all pale and sickly after. We only know she has
spunk because it's spelled out to us, certainly not because her
performance suggests it.
Carroll O'Connor has nothing to do but spout those awful aphorisms
that even he seems embarrassed by. I would have given another
finger if he would have slapped Driver and called her a "meathead."
Bonnie Hunt, as the best fried of Driver, a role required in
all cheesy romance flicks, doesn't have much to do but spout
more wisdom and hope the best for her sweet, dear friend. James
Belushi, as Hunt's husband, isn't given much to do, but at least
he hams it up. He's not funny, because the material isn't, but
at least he woke up the snoring guy in the theater.
This movie is also a visual mess. Hunt has two camera shots
in her bag of tricks. One is the static shot of people talking,
the other is a sweeping crane shot that descends upon the actors
like a vulture. She alternates them, and that's all she does.
Finally, the plot is a serious stinker. There are no bad guys,
just a lot of very sweet people you know will end up in the right
place. The story is dragged along like a dead carcass behind
a truck, growing more painfully dreadful the farther it goes.
And the basic secret, that Driver had a heart transplant is revealed
too late in the story. I sat and waited for her to tell Duchovny,
but the longer she waited, the heavier the secret got and the
more I dreaded when it would finally be dropped on him, triggering
another round of lame plot contrivances meant to keep the couple
"Return to Me" is awful, but even worse it's being
very boring. It's not funny, it's not sad, it's not romantic.
It's cornier than the shit in a Porta-toilet at a Fourth of July
picnic. Two fingers, only because of Belushi.