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Serendipity

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Serendipity

Starring: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale
Director: Peter Chelsom
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 85 Minutes
Release Date: October 2001
Genres: Comedy, Romance


*Also starring: Jeremy Piven, Bridget Moynahan, Molly Shannon, John Corbett, Eugene Levy



Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

While a large audience may be expected to stream to "Serendipity" with the view that this is the kind of movie we need after the terrorist attack of September 11, I couldn't help thinking of New Yorker magazine's critic David Denby's piece quoting Dana Walden, president of 20th century Fox Television in the October 1 issue, "A lot of people will be looking for blue skies and escapist dramas and programs as an alternative to the realities that all of us are dealing with now." Denby states that this amounts to a misreading of the moment, noting that even during the Second World War "bland family entertainment attracted a lot of movie-goers...but the early forties were also the time of highly popular noir melodramas, Preston Sturges's boisterous comedies, and Humphrey Bogart's emergence as a sardonic new hero." Nothing about "Serendipity" says "Preston Sturges." Despite John de Borman's gorgeous views of upscale Manhattan areas, particularly the upper East Side's Bloomingdale's coupled with some surreal images of people in motion, Peter Chelsom's film based on Marc Klein's script is cotton-candy-predictable, a meet-cute romantic comedy derivative of classics like "The Graduate" and even (though it's a stretch) "Miracle on 34th Street." While its saving grace is the lovely and elegant Kate Beckinsale--who class-wise is in a different league than John Cusack--the film's side roles are inhabited by the unappealing Molly Shannon in the role of the prospective bride's best friend, Jeremy Priven as the slightly obnoxious brother of the intended groom, and a bevy of upper-middle class parents and friends of the leads who seem to have come out of Mme. Tussaud's. Chelsom cannot even make good use of comic genius Eugene Levy, so flat-out hilarious in "American Pie" and its sequel, who this time plays a Bloomingdale's salesman fond of repeating ad nauseum that customers must stand behind the line separating the employees from the customers.

Were Kate Beckinsale in the role of an eccentric British expatriate Sara just a tad less desirable, we might wonder why John Cusack (playing the thirty-something Jonathan) would be willing to play along with her hard-to-get machinations. When the two young people meet while competing to buy a pair of black gloves featured on the rack at Bloomie's, they are attracted like magnets, but despite a magical evening together at an ice-cream parlor on E. 60th Street called Serendipity 3 and later blading on the ice at Rockfeller Center, Sara insists that fate decide their future. She writes her name and phone number in a novel, instructing Jonathan that she will sell the book and, if the pleasant suitor should happen to find it in a used book store, he may feel free to call her.

This is the sort of movie that used to open up about Christmastime before the year that December was reserved for major Oscar contenders. Indeed the sight of falling snow adds to the romantic allure of the picture and could make the folks who live in Southern Cal, Florida and Arizona a mite envious of their East Coast countrymen. The mood cast byMr. de Borman's lensing competes with Ms. Beckinsale herself for loveliness but as a story, "Serendipity" is too calculating, too bereft of any genuine accidents to be a fortuitous happening.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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