Film: Video watch
Friday 03 April 1998
In obeying the cardinal rule of 1990s domestic film-making - "Thou shalt pep up thy slight offering with a brash Britpop soundtrack" (cf. House of America) - director and writer Stefan Schwartz signals his disappointing intention to cater for that oft-courted audience, the young, hip and stupid. The attempts of a computer boffin (Stuart Townsend), wise-talking American (Dan Futterman) and their sensible secretary Georgie (Kate Beckinsale) to pull off various money-making scams are filmed with all the cheeky enthusiasm and psychological stringency of a Why Don't You... gang project.
Plodding, comic-caper set pieces deliver little more than the odd zany camera angle, and the love triangle that binds the three leads is just that: a redundant piece of plot geometry. Schwartz joins the romantic dots between Jez, Dylan and Georgie without ever suggesting how painful this entanglement might be for the characters. When it comes to character overall, the film often puts two and two together to arrive at three. Thus, likeable though the cast is, we're meant to extrapolate Jez and Dylan's off-beat appeal from their zany flat - an empty gas storage tank - and derive Georgie's all-round niceness from pointed reference to her diligent medical studies. Not good enough - show your working out. 1/5
That Old Feeling (12), Universal (available to rent now)
Before this romantic comedy succumbs to its inevitably formulaic denouement, Carl Reiner submits just enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt his responsibility for two of Steve Martin's funniest films, The Jerk and The Man With Two Brains. Over-the-top actress Lily (Bette Midler) and her ex-lover, Dan (Dennis Farina), are invited to their daughter's wedding under strict orders to behave ("my parents hate each other with a nuclear capability") and end up consummating her marriage with greater success than the uptight bride (Paula Marshall). Lily can't shake off a persistent paparrazzo and the plot busies itself with her and Dan's scheming to keep news of their fling from their respective partners and off the front page - the son-in-law's a Congressional candidate desperate to avoid a scandal.
Farina and Midler hog the screen at every opportunity, with performances so hammily over-blown you can make out the rind. The film is at its vulgar best when dealing with their pleasingly coarse courtship. New Age marriage counsellor David Rasche and surgically reconstructed trophy bride Gail O'Grady make the most of the titbits thrown them as Lily and Dan's jilted squeezes, but Leslie Dixon's script has had its meagre spark extinguished well before the halfway mark. 2/5
Air Force One (15), Touchstone (available now)
Or, as the US President (Harrison Ford) has it at the film's close, "Get off my plane". Wolfgang Petersen's action adventure has been at the top of the video rental charts since its release and it's not hard to see why. Levering a Die Hard plot into the confines of the US President's personal jet, the director gets a lot of air miles from the claustrophobic location he exploited so well in Das Boot.
Gary Oldman plays a right wing Russian freedom fighter who, by hijacking Air Force One, tests the resolution of the President not to make concessions to international terrorism. Oldman is a natural successor to Donald Pleasance as Hollywood's current first choice for foreign villain, and his performance is all the more satisfying with the knowledge that it funded his own Nil By Mouth.
Petersen turns the screw effectively, teasing the fetishistic pride taken in the President's security - Ford has a tougher time getting through the White House switchboard than Oldman has boarding Air Force One. This fantasy must give many an American a frisson of forbidden pleasure - having a USAF fighter fire on its ultimate commander's plane. Good fun. 3/5
A cautionary tale for ambitious would-be authors
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