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THE WHOLE NINE YARDS (2000)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Michael Clarke Duncan, Roseanna Arquette, Natasha Henstridge
Directed by Jonathan Lynn
I can just see the writers, producers and director sitting around a table pitching ideas around for this movie. I bet one of the producers thought that having Montreal, Quebec as the setting would be a riot. I bet writer Mitchell Kapner thought it would be hilarious if our hero was a nervous, unhappy dentist named Oz. And I even bet director Lynn thought it would be a kooky idea if, at one point, a hit-woman wannabe distracts someone (before being shot to death), by walking around butt naked. But they where wrong, as this misguided and dull black comedy takes us through an excruciating journey of bad timing, failed jokes and awkward situations. What is the movie about? Well, take a seat and I'll try to make this as painless as possible, though nobody knows what it's like to get a wisdom tooth removed unless they endure it...
The film starts off with miserable dentist Oz (Perry), wallowing away in a throwaway marriage to wife Sophie (Roseanna Arquette), who constantly mocks poor Oz and refuses to divorce him (she is joined by her Joan Rivers-esque mother to boot). They live in a humble suburban neighborhood in Quebec, an unlikely setting for any movie, where Oz works in a crummy job (they where forced to movie there from Chicago after Oz's dentist father-in-law decided embezzlement was a good occupation aside from being a dentist).
However, his depressing little life is turned upside down when his new neighbor turns out to be Jimmy'The Tulip'Tudeski (Bruce Willis), after serving five years in prison. Poor Oz fumbles and acts like a nitwit whenever Jimmy is in eyesight, and to his surprise the gangster has even taken a liking to him. Jimmy lives in Canada because his testimony had sent his former boss Gogolak to prison for life, and his son his now thirsty for vengeance, and even has Jimmy's bombshell wife Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge) has a hostage (another sub-plot involving $10 million dollars, why bother?). Sophie, in all her wisdom, sends Oz to Chicago to see the mob boss and perhaps be given a finders fee for divulging information about Jimmy's whereabouts. She than backstabs him when he is away and tells Jimmy what he's up to, hoping that he'll kill her slightly slow minded husband. In the end (which thankfully, even the worst of movies must have), everyone walks away happy, except poor Michael Clark Duncan, perhaps one of the few saving graces of the film (he plays Jimmy's longtime friend and partner, enforcer Frankie Figs, who usually gets what he wants).
Willis is low key, and it usually does work. Amanda Peet, who plays Perry's newly hired assistant (and turns out to be a hit-woman in the works who was originally hired to kill Perry by Arquette, but found him oh so cute to murder off), has a few good scenes here and there and is somewhat enjoyable. And Duncan does a wonderful job as the hit man with the heart of gold, and fists of iron. But the formula never takes off, and the story never really feels present and struggles to be a witty black comedy about the mob and relationships. One to many sub-plots pile up on one another and in the end they all collapse under a sappy and totally unconvincing, yet terribly inevitable ending. Willis is having fun with the part, but often looks as if he had just read the days scenes a few minutes before it was shot, and is merely remembering what the script told him to do. Perry is lifeless in his role, and proves that he is better off on the small screen than on the big one. His one-liners fall flat and his attempts at physical humor are lazy. He's the straight man in a terrible comedy sketch that runs out of steam once the premise is recognized. Arquette's terrible french accent is nerve grating, and her participation in the film just goes to show that the script wanted excess. Everything is contrived and the laughs are to far apart and to forgettable for the film to work. I would recommend the movie for Peet (though the nature of her character does't bloom until the sixty minute mark in a ninety-eight minute movie), and for Duncan. But they can't save a movie that willingly drowns itself in horribly obvious clichés and utter foolishness that strives for a laugh.
My Grade: D