Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Carroll O'Connor, Robert Loggia, Bonnie Hunt, David Alan Grier, Joely Richardson, Eddie Jones, James Belushi, Marianne Muellerleile, William Bronder, Brian Howe, Chris Barnes
Written by: Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, based on a story by Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Andrew Stern, Samantha Goodman
Directed by: Bonnie Hunt
MPAA Rating: PG for language and thematic elements
Running Time: 115
Date: 04/07/2000
IMDB

Return to Me (2000)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Grace of My Heart

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Return to Me sounds like an awful movie. The premise is that an architect's wife dies, her heart gets donated to another woman, and the architect falls for the new woman with his wife's old heart. Ick. But as written and directed by the smart and lovely Bonnie Hunt, Return to Me comes across as not too yucky-sappy and indeed very entertaining, much like an old fashioned George Cukor movie.

David Duchovny plays the architect Bob Rueland, and he leaves behind his seamier "X-Files" and "Red Shoe Diaries" side for this cuddly and caring guy. Joely Richardson plays the dead wife, who, for her fifteen or so minutes of screen time, works for the Chicago Zoo training a gorilla named Sidney. Minnie Driver plays Grace Briggs, the cuddly and caring heart recipient. Driver and Duchovny seem to have a wonderful chemistry together. The excitement of their early awkward courting scenes is palpable.

But the movie really succeeds with its iron-solid supporting cast, beginning with Grace's grandfather, played by Caroll O'Connor, who owns an Irish-Italian restaurant. The head cook there is Robert Loggia, who says great things in his gravely voice (when he argues that Sinatra made the ultimate love music, no one disagrees). And Grace's married best friend is played by director Hunt, with James Belushi as her loving, lamebrained husband. On Bob's side, there is David Alan Grier as his buddy. Not to mention the gorilla and a lovable dog.

It's a staple of all Nora Ephron romantic comedies that the two leads have to have lunkhead sidekicks that are either married or date lots of different people without ever committing. That holds true here, but Hunt makes sure her cast has good lines to say and decent characters to play so that the stereotypes mostly fall away.

Hunt (who co-wrote the screenplay with Don Lake) has been a perennial favorite of David Letterman, who produced her short-lived sitcom "The Bonnie Hunt Show." She's been a rising talent for a long time now, and I think she's found a nice niche as a writer/director and supporting player.

The biggest thing that bothered me about Return to Me was that its entire premise hung on the notion that Grace is afraid to tell her new boyfriend that she's had a heart transplant. Why? Is it contagious? There's no reason for it, except to stall until the other big bomb is dropped -- that she also has his dead wife's heart.

Whatever sins the movie commits, die-hard romantics can forgive all during the climax, which takes place in Rome. The fluffy feel of the movie just doubles when viewed through the rose-colored glasses of one of the world's most romantic cities. (Ahh... amore!) I took my wife to the screening, and it was a perfect movie for a couple. We both laughed a lot. She wept. And I got to hold her hand and feel noble. Guys who get dragged to Return to Me may resist, but they'll end up admitting that it was a good time.

In 2014, Olive Films released the movie on a Blu-ray edition, with a bright, fresh picture and clear sound. Ms. Hunt and Mr. Lake provide a fairly typical commentary track (with some pauses). There's a rough deleted scene with the older character actors, a trailer, and a music video.

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