A Life Less Ordinary

Reviewed by Dan Lybarger

October 23, 1997

After the resounding success of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, British director Danny Boyle was offered the chance to helm the expensive Alien Resurrection. Instead, he chose to direct a quirky, modestly budgeted comedy for his American debut.

Hey, we all make mistakes.

While A Life Less Ordinary is just as off beat as Boyle's previous movies and features the same key collaborators (writer John Hodge, producer Andrew Macdonald and star Ewan McGregor), it's not nearly as entertaining. For the sake of being a little weird, Boyle and his cohorts have let little things like story and character development suffer.

The muddled tale begins promisingly enough. Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo from Ransom play a pair of angels who have the thankless task trying to help a couple fall in love. The match seems unlikely. Robert (McGregor) is a janitor and aspiring pulp novelist, and Celine (Cameron Diaz) is a spoiled heiress who tests potential suitors by having them stand with an apple on their heads while she plays William Tell. When Celine's father (Ian Holm) replaces Robert with a robot, the disgruntled lad storms up to the old man's office and, through a bizarre series of accidents, "kidnaps" Celine. Robert is too gentle and a little too dim to be much of a kidnapper. Instead, Celine uses the situation to have some adventure and to stick it to her nagging father.

As the film progresses, it becomes one of those movies that was probably enjoyable to make but is only sporadically enjoyable to watch. Boyle and Hodge introduce several potentially interesting characters and sequences but let them drop before anything really develops. Even though it is supposed to be a fantasy, there are some gaps in logic the size of Jupiter. For example, in the early portions of the film, Robert has to drive because Celine, who's used to being chauffeured around, can't. Within a matter of days, she's driving like Danny Sullivan. The half-baked dialogue doesn't help. You can see the actors pausing for laughs that don't come.

In addition, the distant approach that worked so well for Boyle and Hodge in Trainspotting (do we really want to get close to a bunch of arrogant Scottish heroin addicts?) lets them down here. In order for a romantic comedy to work, the audience has to want to see the lovers together. With all of the supernatural chaos going on in the background, it's hard to develop any interest, much less sympathy, with the characters.

The movie does have its moments. Hunter is a scream (how many two-fisted, tobacco chewing angels are out there?), and Stanley Tucci (Big Night) is delightful as a deranged orthodontist. But thanks to a groaner of an ending, the scenes that were enchanting pale compared the ones that flopped. A Life Less Ordinary may be hip and edgy, but it's not much fun ( R ). Rating: 4.

 

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This page was last updated on 10/29/97.
Ó 1997 Dan Lybarger

 

 


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