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With: Madonna, Rupert Everett, Benjamin Bratt, Illeana Douglas, Michael Vartan, Josef Sommer, Malcolm Stumpf, Lynn Redgrave, Neil Patrick Harris, John Carroll Lynch
Written by: Tom Ropelewski
Directed by: John Schlesinger
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexual content, partial nudity and language
Running Time: 108
Date: 03/03/2000
IMDB

The Next Best Thing (2000)

1 Star (out of 4)

Next to the Worst

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The very first scene in the new Madonna movie The Next Best Thing stumbles and the movie never recovers. It's a breakup scene that's so awkward we can't help but laugh. We then wonder if The Next Best Thing wasn't intended as a comedy?

It's not. It was meant to be serious. The story seemed like a good idea: Madonna stars as a woman who wants a family but can't hold on to a boyfriend. Rupert Everett co-stars as her gay best friend. One night they get very drunk together and end up conceiving a baby. They decide to raise the child as a couple, just not your typical couple. The movie has the right casting and even the right director in John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Cold Comfort Farm).

However, not even three talented people can save a soup if the stock is bad. The screenplay for The Next Best Thing represents the worst kind of amateur writing. All the dialogue rings false and the transitions are horrible. At one point, we cut to a party that takes place eight years later. We have no idea that it's eight years later. We see dozens of kids running around and it's a few minutes before we find out which one is supposed to be Madonna's child. The characters do not look any older and there are no clues. Another transition has long shots of oil derricks pumping up and down. A sexual image? Maybe, but it plays over a scene of Everett and his mother (Lynn Redgrave) riding in car.

As if this weren't bad enough, the writer betrays us left and right. (Don't read any further if you still plan to see this movie.) Once Madonna meets a generic hunk and decides she wants to marry him, the two friends go to court over the child. And we find out that Everett isn't even the real father! So Madonna ends up looking like Cruella de Ville. Actually, by the end of the movie, we just hate all these characters because we've only seen them being manipulative and horrible.

What's truly unforgivable though is that there's such a lack of good gay cinema being made and gay moviegoers have to suffer through this garbage. Almost every mainstream gay movie has a lead character who either denies that he's gay, or is openly gay and then suddenly switches to being straight. Everett not being the child's biological father represents that same kind of cowardice on the part of the filmmakers. They can't present us with such an interesting scenario and then break it off halfway and chuck it down a ravine. It's just rude. For a video that bucks these trends, the BBC miniseries "Queer as Folk" has begun to trickle into alternative video stores. Other than that, the best gay-themed movies I've seen are My Own Private Idaho (1991), The Wedding Banquet (1993), Man Is a Woman (1997), and Gods and Monsters (1998).

The only thing that keeps The Next Best Thing from being the worst movie of 2000 so far is that Everett has about three funny lines. The worst movie so far, Isn't She Great had only one.

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