Review: Grant delivers but 'Mickey' blinks
August 19, 1999
By Reviewer Paul Clinton(CNN) -- In a huge dramatic stretch, actor Hugh Grant is starring in "Mickey Blue Eyes" as an elegant but befuddled Englishman who must overcome numerous hurdles to win the hand of the lady he loves. Along the way he finds girl, loses girl, gets girl back before giving a grand passionate speech professing undying love in the final act. Big wet juicy kiss. Fade to black.
Sure it's a risky concept, but somebody has to do it.
"Mickey Blue Eyes" is a second outing for actress-model Elizabeth Hurley as a feature film producer. In 1996, she and Grant, her longtime boyfriend, co-produced "Extreme Measures," a medical thriller starring Grant and Gene Hackman. This time around, Hurley and Grant return to the genre in which the actor has been most successful -- romantic comedy.
Trying to marry the mob
Grant plays Michael Felgate, an Englishman who runs an art auction house in New York City. He falls madly in love with with a dark-eyed beauty named Gina Vitale, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn. But when he pops the big question, she says no.
Gina's father, Frank, expertly played by James Caan, is a mob "juice man," a debt collector. In the past, her boyfriends have been corrupted by her father and have become embroiled in the family business. Fearing that history will repeat itself, Gina turns Michael away.
Not taking no for an answer (otherwise there'd be no film), Michael tracks down her old man, and before Grant can bat his eyelashes -- no mean feat -- the two are fast friends. Gina is persuaded to change her mind. But just as she predicted, Michael soon is inadvertently laundering money for "da boys" through his auction house.
Suddenly he's hanging with Vinnie, a mob enforcer played by Joe Viterelli who's made a career as a screen gangster (most recently Robert De Niro's second banana in this year's "Analyze This"). Michael also finds new buddies in Uncle Vito, the reptilian godfather played by veteran character actor Burt Young, and his son Johnny, played by John Ventimiglia.
Gina, who wants nothing to do with her mob connections, accidentally gets Michael involved as an accessory to a gangland murder -- and they're off to wacky comedy land. Before you can say "holy cannoli," Michael is dubbed Mickey Blue Eyes and posing as a mobster from Kansas City. He soon finds himself on the run, pursued by both the mob and the FBI.
In their screenplay, Adam Scheinman (a former professional tennis player) and Robert Kuhn (a former stand-up comic) take every mobster cliché in the book and proceed to drag them out and parade them across the screen with mixed results. This comedy is occasionally hysterical but at times uneven.
But Scheinman and Kuhn also wrote great roles for the supporting players in this film, and director Kelly Makin has cast some fine actors in those parts. Lori Tan Chinn is delightful as a Chinese restaurant owner who just won't go away. "Kids in the Hall" alumnus Scott Thompson is memorable as an FBI agent. (Makin directed six episodes of that TV series and the "Kids" film "Brain Candy.")
Grant is everything you've come to expect in a leading man in a light and fluffy romantic comedy -- again. But in all fairness, when he tries to do anything else -- as in the dramatic "Extreme Measures" -- the public, as Sam Goldwyn put it, stays away in droves. That film made only $17 million dollars vs. the "Notting Hill" take of $113 million and still counting.
Unlike his pairing with Julia Roberts, there's little or no chemistry between Grant and the woefully miscast Jeanne Tripplehorn in "Mickey Blue Eyes." This film plays much better when they're not together on screen -- bad news for a romantic comedy.
Still, there are enough magical moments provided by the supporting cast to keep things moving. And if you're a fan of Grant's "aw shucks" brand of comedy -- and you know who you are -- you may find this light confection to your liking.
"Mickey Blue Eyes" opens Friday and is rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some violence and sensuality. It runs one hour, 42 minutes.
"Mickey Blue Eyes" is a production of Simian Films and Castle Rock, distributed by Warner Bros. -- Castle Rock and Warner Bros. are CNN Interactive sister companies and Time Warner properties.
Hugh Grant is feeling 'Blue'
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