Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Natasha Henstridge, Amanda Peet, Kevin Pollak, Harland Williams
Written by: Mitchell Kapner
Directed by: Jonathan Lynn
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality/nudity and violence
Running Time: 99
Date: 02/17/2000

The Whole Nine Yards (2000)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Hits and Misses

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Hollywood seems fascinated by average schmoes getting mixed up with hitmen and the Mafia. This trend seems to me to be a decline in standards. A decade or more ago we got great gangster movies like the Godfather trilogy (1972, 74, 90), GoodFellas (1990), and Miller's Crossing (1990), which were made artfully and seriously. I'm not against getting comedy out of gangsters, but what's funnier than, "leave the gun... take the cannolis"?

In the past 12 months, we've had Analyze This with Billy Crystal as a neurotic shrink getting involved with gangsters, Mickey Blue Eyes with Hugh Grant as a neurotic art dealer getting involved with gangsters, and now The Whole Nine Yards with Matthew Perry as a neurotic dentist getting involved with gangsters. I didn't find any of these three movies funny, or even interesting. The Whole Nine Yards finds hitman Jimmy 'The Tulip' Tudeski (Bruce Willis moving in next door to Nicholas 'Oz' Oseransky (Perry). It turns out Perry's own wife (Rosanna Arquette) has tried to hire a hit against him. She sets him up to be killed by having him turn Willis in to the big boss (Kevin Pollak). More twists come, involving The Tulip's wife (Natasha Henstridge) and Oz's dental assistant (Amanda Peet).

Most of the jokes come from Perry being nervous in the presence of the gangsters. He fidgets, does double-takes, and falls over himself trying to look casual. One scene I did laugh at concerns current Oscar nominee Michael Clarke Duncan as another hitman. Perry turns to run, bounces off Duncan's enormous chest, and falls over a lamp and behind a couch. That's as good as it gets, folks. It doesn't help that even the dialogue contains no interesting or funny lines. It's the usual people telling other people "don't do anything stupid" (which, of course, they do) and other imbecilic attempts at forced humor. And of course in the final third of the picture Perry suddenly becomes brave and resourceful and the comedy (such as it was) is left behind.

Most of the problem lies with the screenplay by first-timer Mitchell Kapner. It's completely uninspired and was most likely made to cash in on the earlier two movies of this ilk mentioned earlier. And director Jonathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny) can't save it. Matthew Perry is another part of the problem, and he suffers the same fate as befell Billy Crystal and Hugh Grant. People acting stupid in front of gangsters just isn't as interesting as the gangsters themselves. And although Robert De Niro was quite good in Analyze This, Bruce Willis, despite being a much-underrated actor, seems bored in The Whole Nine Yards. Furthermore, if Perry and the other two dufuses had actually seen any gangster movies, they would know how to act. It's as frustrating as watching horror movies and seeing the characters split up and search in separate rooms when they know the killer is in the house.

Maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe this is supposed to work on a simpler level. Perhaps the mere sight of silly men and gangsters is supposed to make us laugh. For me, it didn't work.

Best Buy Co, Inc.