Big Bad Hair

by Ed Symkus

I have no major complaints about this gig -- about sharing my thoughts on movies that, unlike almost everyone else who has to pay to see them, I get paid to see. I sit through good ones and bad ones. I take notes, fashion a review, and then a check comes in the mail. I am very lucky. But sometimes I feel like I'm being paid to fidget, to glance at my watch -- it lights up in the dark if I push a little button -- to wonder why I'm there when I could be home trying to brush my dog's teeth.

Such was the case with this genuinely awful film. I try to be objective every time I approach a darkened theater, but I will admit that there was also a trepidation chaser going along with my objectivity on this one. Truth is, I cannot figure out what anyone sees in Angelina Jolie. She does not act -- she postures. She is not (to my eyes) attractive -- she is a made-over Kewpie doll. And in this particular film, those big fake lips, which have supposedly made her famous, are on big-time display. But -- get this -- they're chapped! From beginning to end, they are quite painful to look at.

Jolie's presence will never be cause for me to look forward to a movie. On the other hand, there's Edward Burns, an actor of limited scope who is usually pretty good at what he does. But in this one, his is a dull, uninteresting performance. At least until his character is put through an unbelievable mood change. Then he becomes annoying.

So we're building quite an equation here. Annoying actor pairing up with unwatchable actor equals a movie experience that I'd soon like to forget. But before I do, a few thoughts.

There's a good premise. Local Seattle TV news reporter Lanie (Jolie) is about to get the big break, a network job in New York. But first she has to get in a little extra work with cameraman Pete (Burns), with whom she's had some sort of stormy relationship in the past. What should have resulted here is a throwback to the great '30s comedies like Twentieth Century or The Front Page, with classic male-female confrontations running through them, often with funny, sharp dialogue. What does result is a series of shouted snubs that will make viewers less amused than uncomfortable.

Yet there's still some promise. The two bickerers are covering a story about a homeless man, Prophet Jack, who has a gift of second sight (Tony Shalhoub, wasted in the part). Lanie becomes the object of one of his many predictions. Prophet Jack calmly predicts a future sports score, talks about upcoming weather and then quite casually tells her she's going to die next Thursday.

The football score turns out to be right on the button. Improbably, it starts hailing just when he said it would. And... well, then the film turns from what's trying to pass as a breezy comedy into what's supposed to be a thriller or a mystery or a study in fear or... no, wait a minute, it's still trying to be a breezy comedy.

So here's Lanie tracking down Prophet Jack in order to get him to make a wrong prediction, thereby proving the one he made about her is also wrong. While doing this, Jolie makes sure to put her thespian "skills" on display, from an exaggerated walk to overblown reactions. Jolie simply does not know how to play comedy.

Since her baseball player fianc & eacute;, Cal (Christian Kane), is out on the road, and since she's now all upset, she turns to Pete for some talk or maybe some comfort. But that doesn't work for her. Neither do scenes of her looking for some of the same from her best friend or her snippy, estranged sister.

What's a plastic-looking gal to do but get stinking drunk and make a fool of herself on live TV? So that's exactly what happens, to the accompaniment of the Rolling Stones singing "Satisfaction." It's a scene that's going to go down as one of cinema's more embarrassing few minutes. And what a message it sends! Touted in the film and in the preview trailers as Lanie being herself, it's actually her being so drunk that she can't remember anything she's done the next morning.

And because of what follows in the plot, that scene is also pivotal in making the whole movie ridiculous. There are inexplicable story twists, ludicrous revelations and many sequences of speeded-up action for no purpose. And the big ending, one that goes straight back to that prediction, simply makes no sense. Actually, another ending, a very sappy one, follows. And then another that's even sappier. Oddly enough, the last line of dialogue, delivered by Shalhoub, is hilarious. The rest of the film is big-time eye- and ear-strain.