Thursday, January 15, 2009

Emma and Dustin, together again

Emma Thompson's lovely, generous smile lights up her face and everything in its vicinity. As Kate Walker, Thompson is the best thing about the anemic romantic comedy, "Last Chance Harvey." In fact, she may well provide the movie's only saving grace. Kate, who lives in London, enters the picture because of Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman), a composer of jingles for commercials who visits England to attend his daughter's wedding. Poor Harvey. He's about to lose his job, probably because of his age. To make matters worse, his daughter (Liane Balaban) asks her stepfather (James Brolin) to give her away. Harvey can't get the security tag off his new suit; and he's being housed in a hotel away from the rest of the wedding party. The whole business is designed (boy, is it ever) to make Harvey look like sap. It works, but this kind of set-up also makes us yearn for a movie that's interested in plumbing the depths of Harvey's disappointment. Instead, "Last Chance" does precisely what its title promises. It provides Harvey with an opportunity for happiness, which means he has a chance to establish a real relationship with Kate. The script by Joel Hopkins, who also directed, doesn't offer much more than that. In a completely extraneous and utterly awful attempt at comedy, Eileen Atkins plays Kate's mother, a woman who believes her Polish next-door neighbor might be a murderer. "Last Chance Harvey" must have been meant to tug at aging heartstrings. Mine remained unplucked.

FYI: Hoffman and Thompson both appeared in 2006's "Stranger Than Fiction."

If you're past the age of 12, you may derive more pleasure from "Last Chance Harvey" than from "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," a juvenile comedy starring Kevin James, still best known for his work on TV's "The King of Queens." James portrays a downtrodden mall cop who becomes an unlikely hero in an innocuous comedy that turns a New jersey mall into a laugh-free zone.

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