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Review: Don't buy 'Just the Ticket'

Web posted on:
Tuesday, March 02, 1999 11:34:46 AM EST

By Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- I sure would like to know what process Andy Garcia uses to pick his scripts. Given how sorry his movies usually end up being, I'd be surprised if it didn't center around a coin toss, or maybe dart-throwing.

That's unfortunate, too, because I like Garcia. He's handsome in an old-world, Mediterranean sort of way, has a great deal of natural charisma, and is usually a lot funnier than you expect him to be. But the hits don't exactly keep on coming.

After making his mark in "The Untouchables" (as good as anything he's ever appeared in), he popped up in "Black Rain and "The Godfather Part III," a couple of could-have-beens that didn't really work out. Okay, nice try.

Then he's in the middling "Internal Affairs," in which he shares a nutty haircut (and most of the blame) with Richard Gere.

Then you get the breathtaking journey from "A Show of Force" to "Dead Again" to "Hero" to "Jennifer 8" to "When a Man Loves a Woman" to "Steal Big, Steal Little" to "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead." Garcia probably has home movies that are more watchable than most of that stuff.

Central character: Lovestruck ticket scalper

And here he is in the next lame installment, "Just the Ticket," a half-"funny," half-serious character study of a lovestruck ticket scalper named Gary. That's right, a ticket scalper. The last time I was concerned with the world of ticket scalping was when I was trying to see a Dylan show back in 1993.

A lot of "Just the Ticket"'s charm is supposed to be derived from seeing just how scalpers manage to get their hands on all those tickets, then avoid the cops while they gouge you and me out of about three times the actual face value. Personally, I don't want ticket scalpers to find love. And I don't think they're particularly charming, either.

Writer/director Richard Wenk is a first-timer, and, unfortunately, it shows in a big way. Wenk doesn't have a clue as to how to make any of this interesting, and his sense of storytelling reminds me of a recording I once heard of Jack Webb attempting to sing "Try a Little Tenderness."

The bone-dry romantic scenes between Garcia and love-interest Andie MacDowell (so-so, as always) have just as little zing to them as the scalping sequences. Garcia (who wears baggy pants and funny hats) does the free-spirited romantic thing without the safety net of a director who understands either individuality or romance. The movie, in a word, is boring.

Obviously director tried to do better

It's not like Wenk didn't give it a go. You can see that he's tried to write inventively quirky characters, but the candy-coated heart lurking beneath the gritty atmosphere reeks of failed Damon Runyon.

The prime example of this is Gary's mentor, a punch-drunk former boxer played by Richard Bradford who wears hearing aids and brags of once having worked Joe Frazier's corner in a title bout. Wenk has so much trouble establishing a pace, he's about halfway through the movie before you realize that Bradford's character is supposed to be more important to Garcia than all the other scalpers who work with him.

Wenk doesn't build up momentum by interweaving matching components of different stories, he just dabbles in one anecdote, then moves on to dabble in another.

MacDowell's generic character, for instance, is shown selling TV sets for a living, but then she's suddenly getting accepted at Paris' Cordon Bleu cooking school, at which point she becomes tortured over leaving Garcia behind. Her dreams of changing her life (and getting away from Garcia, a first-class screw-up who she can't stop lovin') come dropping out of the sky like a dead satellite.

Then, just when you get used to the idea that the cooking angle is going to have a major effect on the plot, MacDowell disappears for so long you forget she's in the movie.

The wrap-up of all this, believe it or not, rides on whether Gary can get his hands on a bunch of tickets for a mass that the Pope is going to give at Yankee Stadium. Gary is convinced that he can make a big enough score on this one event to ... um ... well. Frankly, I didn't know what he was intending to accomplish, except that it somehow involved making the would-be girlfriend happy.

When you boil it all down, it seems to me that he's trying to accumulate enough hard cash to buy her love, a sentiment that's not as sentimental as you want it to be when so much of the rest of the film is comprised of street-wise joshing and kissy-faced cuteness. (One truly terrible scene shows Garcia and MacDowell re-bonding as they throw food at the kitchen walls of a rich old matron who won't pay MacDowell what she owes her for her catering services. Aren't they wacky?)

So, it's a big mess. Garcia might need to back off for a while from the leading man roles and allow himself the opportunity to appear in something ... how should I put it? Good. He should allow himself to appear in something good, even if it means playing second banana to another star. As it stands right now, he seems to be an actor who's in dire need of some coattails.

Then, once America realizes that he's still alive, he can hop back in the driver's seat and try to carry another film. His career path right now suggests that he's about to disappear before our very eyes, and I think he deserves better than that.

"Just the Ticket" contains some bad language, and Garcia gets pretty badly beaten up by a rival scalper. The most memorable performance is given by a cute dog who's usually seen wearing one of those plastic things around his head so that he won't chew at a skin condition. That's what you call a warning sign. Rated R. 112 minutes.

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