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The Pallbearer

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Pallbearer

Starring: David Schwimmer, Gwyneth Paltrow
Director: Matt Reeves
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: May 1996
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Barbara Hershey, Michael Rapaport, Carol Kane, Toni Collette, Bitty Schram, Michael Vartan, Jean De Baer, Edoardo Ballerini

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Andrew Hicks read the review movie reviewmovie review

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

THE PALLBEARER is THE GRADUATE for the 90s. The locale has been shifted to Brooklyn and the protagonist lives only with his insufferable mother (Carol Kane), but the rest of the major story elements are in place. Don't get me wrong, this is not a literal remake, but if you try to count the number of similarities, you will soon lose track. First, and foremost, the twenty-five year old lead character, Tom Thompson (David Schwimmer), sounds and acts like Dustin Hoffman did in THE GRADUATE.

The set up for THE PALLBEARER is that Ruth Abernathy (Barbara Hershey), referred to in the film, of course, as Mrs. Abernathy a la Mrs. Robinson, calls Tom and asks him to be a Pallbearer at her son Bill's funeral. There is a small problem in that, although Tom went to high school with Bill, he does not remember him at all. Moreover, none of his friends from high school, Julie DeMarco (Gwyneth Paltrow), Brad Schorr (Michael Rapaport), Cynthia Edelman (Toni Collette from MURIEL'S WEDDING), Scott Edelman (Michael Vartan), and Lauren (Bitty Schram), can remember Bill either. When they look up Bill's picture in the annual, it is blank, and the only info is that he was in the chess club.

Soon it goes from bad to worse as Ruth becomes convinced that Tom was Bill's best friend and so gets Tom to agree to do the eulogy. Tom starts off with "Who is Bill Abernathy? This is not an easy question to answer." He then goes on to wing it with his friends in the pews in stitches. The speech felt like it was lifted straight from Hugh Grant's wedding speech in FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. This is one derivative show from beginning to end.

Just like in THE GRADUATE, Tom falls in love with the naturally beautiful Julie who is his age. At the same time, the older, heavily made-up, peroxide blonde Mrs. Abernathy seduces him. This puts him in an untenable situation. Remember the problems this caused in THE GRADUATE? Well, many of them are replayed here, but not as well.

The problem with THE PALLBEARER has nothing to do with the casting or the acting. Most of the acting, with the exception of the poor performance by Hershey, is fine. The problem is the script by Jason Katims and the directing by Matt Reeves. The show is kept at the superficial level. There is not a character that is real or that you care about. Now, strictly as escapist entertainment, it almost works. Certainly there are many big laughs in the show, but I left the movie feeling a bit cheated and unsatisfied. The film just does not realize its potential.

THE PALLBEARER runs too long at 1:46. It is rated PG-13, but it is a mild PG-13. There is no sex, nudity, or violence, and the language is pretty tame. It would be fine for kids over 9 although I suspect, given the subject matter, it might be more appropriate for those over 12. Several big laughs were not enough to get me to recommend this retread, but I am giving it ** for the laughs and for David Schwimmer's performance.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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