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Movies

Review: 'The Bachelor' -- cold feet, bad film

November 9, 1999
Web posted at: 1:15 p.m. EST (1815 GMT)

By Reviewer Paul Tatara

(CNN) -- Quick: Name Chris O'Donnell's defining characteristic as an actor. Anything come to mind? The instinctive response is to say he's handsome, but that's a given. Other than in the Dustin Hoffman years of the early 1970s, the United States has never been a country that warms up to excessively dumpy actors.

The question is, does anything distinguish O'Donnell as a screen personality, as a performer worth shelling out good money to see?

Is he a tough guy? No. Is he funny? Not really. Is he the wounded, mysterious type? No again. Does he seem dangerous? Not unless neatly trimmed bunnies scare you. O'Donnell is the acting equivalent of tofu, a blob of matter who takes on the flavor of whatever concoction you throw him into.

The only times he makes even a small impression are when he's cast next to a big fat showoff (Al Pacino in 1992's "Scent of a Woman") or when he turns up in deafening, mega-marketed cannonballs -- his two appearances as Robin in the bloated "Batman" series. Otherwise, you just have to take the studio's word that he deserves to be on the screen. Somebody has do it, so it might as well be O'Donnell.

But that still doesn't explain why he's in Gary Sinyor's "The Bachelor," a movie so clichéd and mortally unfunny that it seems nobody should have to do it.

"The Bachelor" is as generic as they come, the kind of commercial fabrication that sets up a pair of hackneyed concepts, then runs them in concentric circles until there's enough footage to cut together a movie. It's a comedy without a single laugh, a romance that operates 30 years behind any thinking person's romantic learning curve.

No one involved -- not even earthy co-star Renée Zellweger, a superb actress who normally wears her tender heart on her sleeve -- seems to have committed an ounce of emotion to any aspect of this production. The idea apparently was to make a killing by snowing superficial audience members into thinking that what they're watching is the height of wit. And the scary part is that it'll probably work.

 VIDEO

Theatrical preview for "The Bachelor"

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Moldy, not goody

The basic story is so moldy you could use it to make penicillin. O'Donnell plays Jimmie Shannon, a bachelor who can't bring himself to tie the knot with his sweet, adoring girlfriend, Anne (Zellweger). The would-be clever credit sequence shows a bunch of wild stallions running across the open prairie as David Byrne sings "Don't Fence Me In."

Jimmie explains that men are a different breed from women, that they're supposed to roam free-and-wild and feel the wind in their hair as they pursue their next conquests. Women, of course, want nothing more than to get married, have kids and tie their hubbies to the nearest armchair. It's no big surprise that Anne is itching to tame feral Jimmie, and it's causing some friction in their relationship.

That's certainly easy enough. But commercial films also need an unexpected twist that won't test the limits of the audience's imagination. You want to pull them into the theater feeling that they're about to see something different and exciting, even though that's the last thing they really want to do. Let's see, the central ingredients of the stew are sex and simple-minded generalizations about the human condition, so what's left to entice people? -- toss in a big pile of money.

Jimmie's ornery grandfather dies (Peter Ustinov, overdoing the American accent), and not a moment too soon as far as the plot goes. In a videotaped will, he tells Jimmie he'll inherit $100 million if he gets married by his 30th birthday.

Unfortunately, Jimmie turns 30 in two days. His sitcom-ready buddy, Marco (the hugely annoying Artie Lange), a bored priest (James Cromwell), the family lawyer (Ed Asner) and Grandpa's broker (Hal Holbrook) all jump into gear and try to get Jimmie hitched in time to inherit the cash. Jimmie royally screws up his proposal to Anne, telling her that she "wins" when he hands her the ring, so he now has to find a woman who's willing to marry him for the money, but quick.

Anne is peeved, but she can't get the apparently retarded Jimmie out of her mind, so you just know there's going to be some tearful smooching between the two before it's all over.

First, though, Jimmie has to quickly court and propose to every conceivable permutation of the female species. This conveniently allows for a series of scenes that aren't hindered by such things as moving the plot along or illuminating the main character in any serviceable way. Instead, you get single-minded skits that end with Jimmie either being screamed at or having his face slapped.

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Brooke Shields makes a so-so appearance as a chain-smoking rich girl who eventually backs out of the scheme.

But the highlight of these confrontations is when world-famous taste lowerer Mariah Carey makes her screen debut as an opera star who has a histrionic vocal style but can't act her way out of a parking ticket. The casting is letter-perfect, although the "can't act" part informs Carey's entire performance.

"The Bachelor" is easily one of the worst movies of the year, but it does feature a helpful cooking tip: Tofu won't absorb any flavor if you put it into something completely tasteless.


There's a little bad language in "The Bachelor" but no sex or nudity. Even children, however, might be offended by its lack of psychological depth. Great moments in screenwriting: At one point, O'Donnell is made to shout, "I'm not interested in your vagina!" PG-13. 101 minutes.

"The Bachelor" is distributed in the United States by CNN Interactive sister company New Line Cinema, a Time Warner property.


RELATED STORIES:
Batman & Robin: The franchise fadeth
July 2, 1997
'In Love and War:' a casting disaster on both counts
January 31, 1997

RELATED SITES:
Official 'The Bachelor' site
New Line Cinema
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