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With: Marisa Tomei, Vincent D'Onofrio, Nadia Dajani, Holland Taylor, Larry Fessenden
Written by: Brad Anderson
Directed by: Brad Anderson
MPAA Rating: R for language
Running Time: 110
Date: 01/25/2000

Happy Accidents (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

If you saw Brad Anderson's wonderful romantic comedy Next Stop Wonderland (1998) then caught his new horror film Session 9, which recently played the Roxie, you might be wondering what the connection is between the two films. Anderson's middle film, Happy Accidents, which opens today, provides the elusive link.

Happy Accidents is a kind of sci-fi romantic comedy, with all the grittiness of Next Stop Wonderland, but also a taste of melancholy and darkness. It's also a sci-fi film based on ideas and not on special effects. I can't think of another genre movie like it.

Marisa Tomei stars as Ruby Weaver, a lonely New Yorker forever in search of a life-mate. She and her friends get together and complain about the never-ending parade of useless men in their lives and keep photos of them in a box marked "Ex Files." Suddenly, she meets Sam Deed (Vincent D'Onofrio), who's a nice enough guy but a little weird. Things go fairly well until Sam explains to her that he's from the future. The year 2470, to be exact.

Not unlike Don Juan DeMarco, in which Johnny Depp claims to be Don Juan himself (and also the upcoming K-Pax), the film continually keeps us guessing as to whether or not Sam's telling the truth. He keeps elaborating his story, and it keeps sounding more and more extraordinary. This movie actually begins to believe in its own story.

Unfortunately, Happy Accidents suffers from a bit of bad casting. Though Tomei is delightful as usual, D'Onofrio has built up an impressive resume of violent creeps (from Full Metal Jacket to The Whole Wide World to Men in Black to The Cell) and it's hard to trust him as such a sweetheart. You keep thinking he's going to flip out and murder poor Tomei in cold blood. In addition, the film paints the romance with sullen, melodramatic strokes that ranks it closer to An Affair to Remember than to the screwball fun of His Girl Friday.

In other words, it's more romance than comedy, and it contains all the pain and hard work of a real-life relationship. Those who want to work for it will admire Happy Accidents, but those who want a lite Meg Ryan-ish flick should look elsewhere. In addition, sci-fi fans sick to death of CGI and The Phantom Menace clones should give it a shot. There isn't a better movie at which fans of the two genres can meet.

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