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April 2000

Spring Flowers


Galaxy Quest*** Space Cadets

Since its cancellation, the television show “Galaxy Quest” has maintained a fanatic following, but the actors are hopelessly typecast, earning a living by taking bit parts and appearing in costume at fan conventions. Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), who played Commander Peter Quincy Taggart, enjoys this lifestyle, unlike his fellow cast members (Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub and Daryl Mitchell). Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman), who played Dr. Lazarus, is downright resentful. At one convention, Nesmith is approached by a group of fans dressed up as aliens. Their leader, Mathesar (Enrico Colantoni), explains that he needs Commander Taggart’s help. Thinking they’re going to some sort of acting gig, Nesmith and his fellow actors find themselves transported to a space ship where they are expected to dispatch an intergalactic dictator. It seems that the aliens are able to pick up “Galaxy Quest” TV broadcasts and mistake the program for a series of “historical documents.” Believing “Galaxy Quest” to be real, they expect Taggart and his crew to save the day.
Parodying all things Star Trek, Galaxy Quest hits the target. Fandom receives the sharpest edge of director Dean Parisot’s satirical blade, although he is never vicious in his thrusts. For moviegoers ignorant of the Star Trek phenomenon, the flick still offers an enjoyable, if utterly predictable, storyline of normal people who become heroes. If you can buy into the corny spirit, you’ll enjoy it more. Galaxy Quest is simply out of this world.

Magnolia** Cruise Control

Magnolia describes 24 pivotal hours in the desperate lives of ten people in the San Fernando Valley. A game-show producer (Jason Robards) is on his deathbed, attended by his caretaker (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his gold-digging wife (Julianne Moore). The caretaker tries to fulfill the producer’s final wish to see his long-lost son (Tom Cruise), a woman-hating self-help guru. Meanwhile, a game-show host with an estranged wife and a cocaine-addicted daughter (Philip Baker Hall) has just learned that he too is dying. The game show’s star contestant, a hypersensitive whiz-kid (Jeremy Blackman), is tormented by his money-hungry father. And yet another subplot — a former star (William H. Macy) is trying to cope with being fired from his job and struggles with unrequited love. Like unwitting pawns, the characters move inexorably toward a spectacular finale.
Magnolia is a pretentious film in search of a point, and that search becomes tiresome as director P.T. Anderson (Boogie Nights) wanders through the characters’ unhappy lives. The saving grace of this three-hour Prozac-fest is Tom Cruise in his best work yet. His scenes are over-the-top and flamboyant, but the plethora of story lines means we see far too little of him. Some will enjoy this film because they don’t know what it to make of it. They’ll call it art. I call it just plain boring.

The Whole Nine Yards*** Hitman with a Heart

In The Whole Nine Yards, Nicholas “Oz” Oseransky (Matthew Perry) is a dentist trapped in a loveless marriage with a French-Canadian opportunist, Sophie (Rosanna Arquette), who plots daily to cover debts left by her embezzler father. When Jimmy Jones (Bruce Willis) moves into the house next door, Oz immediately recognizes that Jimmy is none other than Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski, a mob turncoat in hiding. The conniving Sophie pitches a scheme to Oz: if he informs Mafia thugs of Jimmy’s whereabouts and collects the “finder’s fee,” she’ll give him the divorce he so desperately wants. Oz leaves his trusty receptionist (Amanda Peet) in the lurch and flies to Chicago, where he makes the acquaintance of a very large hit man (Michael Clarke Duncan), the mob boss (Kevin Pollak) and Tudeski’s gorgeous, estranged wife, Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge). Oz quickly discovers that everyone wants everyone else dead — with a hefty $10 million riding on it.
The latest in a recent trend in mob comedies, this farce of shifting alliances and assassination schemes sounds like it could become confusing, but director Jonathan Lynn (Trial and Error) keeps things orderly and moving quickly. The actors seem to be having a fabulous time, with Perry finally showing some of the silly charm he regularly exhibits on TV’s Friends and a very cool Willis barely restraining a smile. Even so, they’re still nearly upstaged by supporting performers Peet (Body Shots) and Duncan (The Green Mile), who steal their own share of scenes. Go see this movie. It’s a surefire hit.

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