There are occasions when I find myself awake at 3am. Usually I climb out of bed, grab a bowl of cereal or some crackers with peanut butter, and watch an episode of the Love Boat or some other corny TV show from the Spelling-Goldberg era. If I’m lucky I come across an old movie. If I’m really lucky it’s a kinda crappy romantic comedy like last night’s Chances Are with Robert Downey Jr, Cybill Shepard, Ryan O’Neal and Mary Stuart Masterson.
Now, the funny thing about Chances Are is that it is not a particularly good movie about reincarnation gone awry. It goes like this: In 1963, Louis Jefferies (cutely played by Christopher McDonald), a lawyer, is hit by a car and dies on his wedding anniversary. He gets to heaven, protesting there’s been some kind of mistake. A Heavenly processing clerk allows Louis to return prematurely to earth, in a new body, as another man , Alex (RDJ) with no recollection of his previous life–until he runs into his wife, Corrine, (Cybill)–whilst dating the daughter (Miranda) (MSM) he never met. Mayhem ensues.
Or tries to.
There’s a little too much slapstick humour, a lovely little melty moment where RDJ looks at Cybill, a really awesome black dress, and a mystery is revealed over how the earlier version of Louis Jefferies died, which of course Alex/Louis has to solve. There’s also the ear wormy ’80s Cher-Peter Cetera Duet After All that I actually have in my iTunes library, and well, let’s face it, RDJ.
I am a big fan of RDJ. He’s a brilliant actor (if you’ve ever NOT see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang do so, RIGHT AWAY) and while he completely carries the film, there’s no real chemistry between him and Cybill, who’s never looked lovelier, but sparks way better with Bruce Willis. The sexual tension that is so important for a romantic anything, just isn’t there. Tension is vital. There has to be a foundation built on chemistry when two lead characters work together, whether it’s a romantic movie or a buddy movie. If you want to see what chemistry is, just pure chemistry watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang because, aside from being brilliantly written by Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon and director of Iron Man 3), the leads, RDJ and Val Kilmer have THE spark.
Of course a lack of chemistry between Cybill and RDJ does not stop me from watching Chances Are. In fact, I am compelled to watch it, although I’m not exactly sure why. It’s bad and I like it. I like that there is an age difference between the leads. I like how it portrays romance as confusing and earth-shattering at any age. I like the reincarnation theme. So this liking it got me thinking. There’s another movie I think is bad–and in this case I mean it’s bad and I won’t watch it because I find it laughable. It looks good, has moody music and spectacular set pieces and Gary Oldman. It even has a swoon-worthy line “I’ve crossed oceans of time to find you,” which is up there with Westley in The Princess Bride saying “Hear this now; I will always come for you.” However Westley’s head does not look like an ass, which is all I see when I view look at Gary Oldman as Dracula in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Sorry Anna Campbell. I know you love it, but I can’t get past the ass-head.
Last night’s 3am viewing of Chances Are got me musing over what makes a movie –or a book– compelling. So what does it for you. What badness are you willing to sit though or read through and still come out enjoying the work at the end? What do you willingly overlook to get to the happily ever after? Is it a few small things, like the acting and awesome dress for me, that keep you going, or not going like the Vampire ass-head that stops me cold?