Monday, April 26, 2004

The Whole Ten Yards

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 25 April 2004 at Loews Boston Common #15 (first-run)

I'd been dreading this movie. The Whole Nine Yards had been a fun, entertaining comedy against virtually any reasonable set of expectations - who expects anything out of Matthew Perry, Natasha Henstridge, or Patricia Arquette? Bruce Willis had mostly been just picking up a paycheck for years, and Amanda Peet hadn't done anything other than one of the more underrated TV series in recent years, Jack & Jill, worthy of attention. That it came together to form an energetic, surprisingly funny comedy was quite frankly shocking, and didn't seem to be something that could be repeated.

And The Whole Ten Yards isn't as good as the first. It has amped the volume up a little to loud and in the name of character development gives the characters too much reason to shout at each other and argue when a great deal of the fun in The Whole Ten Yards was how much Matthew Perry's skittish dentist Oz, his assistant-who-wants-to-be-a-hitman Jill (Peet), ex-mobster Jimmy The Tulip (Willis), and his ex-wife Cynthia (Henstridge) wound up finding themselves unlikely friends. Creating tension among this group for the second movie is perhaps necessary, but is not necessarily fun.

Fortunately, there is fun to be had. The main source is from Amanda Peet, who plays Jill as girlishly enthusiastic about being a killer-for-hire, fun and perky and apparently completely oblivious to how her chosen field is just wrong. Meanwhile, the villains are ludicrously incompetant. Kevin Pollack plays Lazlo Gogalak (the father of his character from the first film), a Hungarian gangster just released from prison who mangles the English language and can't stand being corrected for even the slightest miscues. Frank Collison plays Lazlo's other son Strabo as far from the smartest gangster you'll ever meet, but serves as a very effective straight man for the action happening around him.

As to what's going on - it doesn't make any sense. We don't get any reasoning behind the scam until the very last scene, and it makes no sense (try finding a way to casually rip a dollar in half so that neither half has the complete serial number). Indeed, even for a wacky comedy, the plot to this movie is thin. If you stand back and look at it as a whole, it's pretty much a failure; you basically have to come in close enough that you can't see very much beyond the current gag for it to work. Happily, it does work at that level more often than not.

Story-wise, there's no need for The Whole Ten Yards, and I hope like heck that the people involved don't try to push their luck with The Whole Eleven Yards. I realize that it's damning with faint praise to say that The Whole Ten Yards isn't the disaster I'd feared, but you could say the same thing about Nine, and that was good enough to get me into this movie.

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