Amusing and at times uproarious, this caper comedy about a small-city celebrity turned reluctant felon would've made a great vehicle for Don Knotts in the 1960s. While John Travolta never quite reaches that total mix of panic and hapless "why-me?"
desperation, he's charming and funny enough as a well-meaning weatherman who stumbles into larceny, and his deer-in-the-headlights freeze at one crucial moment is hilarious. TV weather forecaster Russ Richards (Travolta) is the prince of Harrisburg, PA, with his own roped-off table at Denny's. He
adores playing the nice-guy celebrity because he is a nice guy. But when hard times hit his snowmobile dealership, Russ halfheartedly agrees to a "victimless" insurance scam with Gig (Tim Roth), his improbably British friend. (Gig is a strip-club owner for no apparent story reason other
than an excuse to include filler shots of semi-naked dancers.) The break-in, of course, goes awry, and poor Russ gets sucked into a spiral of crime and embarrassment, starting with a rigged lottery-drawing scheme involving the TV station's icily ambitious lottery-ball bimbo, Crystal Latroy (Lisa
Kudrow), and her religious perv cousin (filmmaker Michael Moore). Soon a blackmailing bookie (Richard Schiff), a greedy station manager (the ever-reliable Ed O'Neill) and a whiny cop (Bill Pullman) are flying around the periphery. Director Nora Ephron is at her comedic best when she's wringing
laughs out of polite dialogue in impolite situations: Here, those situations mostly involve one Dale the Thug (a terrifically dense and dangerous Michael Rapaport). But the caper itself never snaps, never jumps and never moves faster than a power walk. And while the real-life incident on which the
story's loosely based the Pennsylvania State Lottery "666 Fix" did take place in the 1980s, there's no other reason for the film to be set in 1988; Ephron makes no effort to capture the era. Still, it's funny enough and well-played, and you have to give credit to any movie that finds
perfect visual counterpoints to both "We Are the Champions" and "Mack the Knife."
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 2000
- Rating: R
- Review: Amusing and at times uproarious, this caper comedy about a small-city celebrity turned reluctant felon would've made a great vehicle for Don Knotts in the 1960s. While John Travolta never quite reaches that total mix of panic and hapless "why-me?" despera… (more)