|One Night at McCool's
Filmed in 1999 and released in theaters two years later, the "comedy"
One Night at McCool's has an interesting premise that ends up fairly
predictable and mundane. The fact that one key starring performance is
also amiss doesn't help either. More than likely this will have a short run
in theaters and then settle comfortably into a video/DVD/cable niche where
it might titillate young men.
The primary thrust of the film is the affect of Jewel (Liv Tyler) on a
disparate trio of men whose lives become intertwined after encountering
her at a bar. Randy (Matt Dillon) is the slow-witted bartender who comes
to her aid when her abusive boyfriend threatens her. He takes her back
to his rundown house (he inherited it from his recently deceased mother)
and she quickly makes herself at home. Jewel also leads him down a garden
path of crime that includes robbery and murder. That's where Detective
Dehling (John Goodman) comes in -- he's the widower cop investigating
one of the suspicious deaths. In his mind, Jewel resembles his late wife
and the policeman becomes thoroughly convinced that he's meant to be
her protector and savior -- notably from Randy. The third person in the
mix is Carl (Paul Reiser), Randy's cousin by marriage who happens to be
a lawyer. Each man becomes besotted by the vixen and she plays a
different role with each man.
As the film opens, the three men are recounting their stories in
confessional mode. At a bingo parlor, Randy spins his story to Burmeister
(Michael Douglas, who was also one of the producers), a hit man with a
bad toupee that looks like road kill on his head. Carl has opted to confide
in a psychologist (Reba McEntire), and the Detective Dehling is literally
confessing to his parish priest (Richard Jenkins). Writer Stan Seidel
(who died in July 2000) used this conceit to deal with pesky matters of
exposition and as a set up for the climactic confrontation that,
unfortunately, was hardly surprising.
The jokes aren't particularly funny and director Harold Zwart
(making his feature debut) doesn't seem too comfortable handling
the material. Scenes that cry out for a light touch are dealt with in a
heavy-handed manner. He also has a tendency to repeat ideas that
were mildly amusing the first time but by the third time become dull.
For example, when each man recounts his first meeting with Jewel, she
is seen from a cheesy, soft-focused perspective that calls to mind either
a cheap music video or bad soft-core porn.
The actors try gamely but most are stranded by the middling script
and inept direction. Matt Dillon has perfected the doofus routine,
effectively using that persona well in other films. Here, he only has a
couple of moments where he manages to transcend the material. John
Goodman is one of the best comic actors working today, but even he
cannot do much with his ill-defined character. Paul Reiser tries hard
and seems well-cast as a slimy legal beagle, but when he's reduced
to wearing a leather S&M outfit, it is not a pretty sight. Michael Douglas
offers perhaps the best performance of the men in a relaxed turn as the
aging hit man, but it's hard to take him seriously given that he seems
to be having a bad hair day. The remaining supporting cast is serviceable,
The central problem with the film, however, is Liv Tyler. A coltish
beauty, this ingenue has the "femme" part down but she's hardly "fatale".
Arguably the role she's asked to play is a near impossibility: being all
things to all men. Tyler tries gamely, but her inexperience shows. The
audience is asked to accept that this woman would willingly work as a
perfume spritzer at a department store while concocting elaborate robbery
schemes so she can furnish her dream house. She is not so much a
person as an ideal and no actress could embody that. Tyler has the
sultry allure for music videos but not for features. She earns points for
wanting to stretch as an actor, but as in Onegin, she ends up being
miscast to the detriment of the overall piece.
One Night at McCool's is too high brow to be low rent and too
low brow to be considered worthy. My advice would be to skip it in favor
of something more entertaining.
MPAA Rating: R (for violence, sexuality and language)
Running time: 93 mins.
|© 2007 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.