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Return to Me

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Return to Me

Starring: David Duchovny, Minnie Driver
Director: Bonnie Hunt
Rated: PG
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: April 2000
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Joely Richardson, Eddie Jones, Marianne Muellerleile, William Bronder, David Alan Grier, Carroll O'Connor, James Belushi, Bonnie Hunt

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Contrary to the anticipation of some, "Return to Me" is not the sequel to James Whale's 1935 movie "Bride of Frankenstein--which Leonard Maltin praises as a film with "rich veins of dry wit running through the chills." In that film Ernest Thesiger forces Dr. Frankenstein into making a mate for his creation. Bonnie Hunt's new movie does deal (yeah it's a stretch) with a nice-looking regular guy whose dead wife's heart gives new life to a dying patient waiting despondently for a new ticker. That's about where the comparison ends. Remove the heart of the victim of a fatal car accident, place it gently into the chest of an ebbing shut-in, Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver) and voila--a new woman friend for a disconsolate widower, Bob Rueland (David Duchovny). Since the names of heart donors are not made known to the lucky recipients, the odds that Bob and Grace would coincidentally meet are about the same as the chances of being struck by lightning on a clear day But OK, we can overlook the credibility in a romantic comedy. What we cannot disregard is the top-to-bottom banality of the enterprise, a story without edge, a group of elderly characters who are for the most part patronized by director and co-writer Hunt, and an entirely formulaic piece of comedy-melodrama with scarcely a moment of real drama and featuring repartee engaged in by codgers without a genuine dab of wit.

The most basic convention of romantic comedies is that the pair of lovers must be kept apart throughout the story, predictably getting together in the concluding scenes after they find one excuse following another to leave each other's company. In "Return To Me" Bob and Grace do not meet at all until at least one-third of the tale has unfolded, but no matter: their encounter does not speed the pulse of this monotonous action in which even a fatal auto crash takes place off screen to avoid offending the targeted PG crowd.

Bonnie Hunt appears to think that the demographics for this movie are folks who watch five hours of TV daily and can't get enough of the stuff, so she feeds them more of the =

glop hoping to evoke the customary word-of-mouth, "I laughed, I cried, I ate popcorn." "Return to Me" at least substitutes an environmental cause for product placement, opening on a big ape named Sydney who is kept in a zoo home with at least 2/3 less space than he requires. Elizabeth Rueland (Joely Richardson) as the principal caregiver of the animal (who has taught him sign language) delivers a heartfelt address to potential donors at a black-tie affair attended by her husband, Bob, an architect who soon thereafter winds up in a car accident that kills his wife. =

Elizabeth's heart is transplanted into Grace's chest, allowing Grace to emerge from the hospital and resume life with her extended family--two of whose antiquated members own an Italian-Irish restaurant.

The subplot involving an extended card game that engages a circle of friends including Marty O'Reilly (Carroll O'Connor) and Angelo Pardipillo (Robert Loggia) is patronizing. Hunt treats these elderly men as cutesy, harmless individuals whose great joy in life when they are not bowling or shuffling the deck is playing Cupid to Grace--who seems never to have had a date in her life. When the camera is not on Grace and Bob who shyly test the waters of romance with each other, we see increasing scenes from the lives of the codgers and also from the overpopulated household of Megan Dayton (Bonnie Hunt) who is married to the graceless Joy (James Belushi).

Nevertheless, this could be your kind of comedy if you 1) think that a nun riding a bicycle in Rome is amusing, 2) want to watch James Belushi do a bellydance, 3) enjoy a repetitious gag about people comparing themselves to the ape Sydney, 4) like to see a working man's wife's face contort whenever her husband says "hell" or "damn" in front of the kids, 5) consider Grace amusing when she dumps bottled water into the sink of the Irish-Italian restaurant and fills it with tap water to get back at a whining customer, 6) think that David Duchovny should play any role but the one he was born for--Mulder on the X-Files.

(C) 2000 by Harvey Karten,

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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