Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sweet and sour big-screen Valentines

Had "Definitely, Maybe" been released a couple of years ago, it would have been greeted as a better-than-average romantic comedy built around the slightly bizarre notion that a soon-to-be-divorced father (Ryan Reynolds) would tell his 10-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) an unusual bedtime story, one that detailed the ups and downs of his pre-marital relationships.

But the movie arrives just when Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are locked in bruising combat for the Democratic presidential nomination. "So what?" you ask. So this. As the story develops, Reynolds reveals that his idealistic devotion to the candidacy of William Jefferson Clinton ended in disillusionment. Just what Hillary needed: a romantic comedy mired in the fizzled promise of the Clinton years.

Granted this is a somewhat incidental ingredient in a story about a man who introduces us to the three most important women in his life (Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher and Rachel Weisz), but wouldn't it be ironic if a romantic comedy wound up adding to Hillary's apparently mounting woes?

The movie? Well, Reynolds is bland, but the women aren't. Banks plays Reynolds' college sweetheart, a woman who may not be the dream girl that she initially seems. Weisz portrays a New York writer whose relationship with a professor (Kevin Kline) doesn't curtail her amorous activity, and Fisher appears as a worker in the Clinton campaign.

Breslin (familiar from "Little Miss Sunshine") doesn't have much to do. She's part of a framing device that's evidently designed to add intrigue to the proceedings. Reynolds' Will tells his daughter the story of how he hooked up with her mother, but doesn't say which of the women wound up being her mom. He changes all the names and encourages the girl to guess, which leads to the movie's sentimental conclusion.

Adam Brooks handles the directing chores competently, and it should be noted that the movie derives from the producing team of Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, who were responsible for "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and "Notting Hill," both of which seemed snappier and more energized.


And then, there's "Jumper." I'd been looking forward to this helping of sci-fi because of director Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity" and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"). But an under-explained premise -- genetic mutations allow a young man (Hayden Christensen) to teleport himself from one location to another -- an overly frenetic editing style and a skimpy story turn this one into a major disappointment.

As various young people, jump around the globe, someone must try to stop them or there's no movie. In what passes for a plot, Jumpers are tracked by Paladins who want to kill them. Why? Because Jumpers evidently aren't aware that all actions have consequences. It's as if they're putting one over on the cosmos, and the Paladins won't stand for it.

Samuel L. Jackson -- boasting a head of white helmet hair -- signs on as the chief Paladin. He chases Christensen's character and his girlfriend (Rachel Bilson) around the globe. Diane Lane plays the mother who abandoned Christensen's David when he was five; Michael Rooker portrays David's wayward father, and Jamie Bell appears as Griffin, another Jumper.

Say this, though; the production had a great travel budget with major segments shot in Rome, Tokyo and New York. You get to see the Rome's Colisseum and lots of Tokyo neon, but "Jumper" never feels full or rich enough; it's like watching a quarter of the movie.

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