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The Independent Critic

Robert Carlyle, Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, Mary Steenburgen
Randall Miller
Rated PG-13
103 Mins.
Samuel Goldwyn Co.
 "Marilyn Hotchkiss..." Review 

 Is there an rule that you have to write out the name of a film in order to review it?


Are you sure?

This film's title is almost as longwinded as John Goodman in this schmaltzy, emotionally manipulative but occasionally charming film written and directed by Randall Miller based upon a previous, award-winning short film of his own.

"Marilyn Hotchkiss," as I will not so affectionately call it, centers upon Steve (Goodman). Steve is a 48-year-old man who, as an eight-year-old child, promised his sweetheart Lisa that on the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of the millennium that he would meet her again at good ole' Marilyn's school.

Steve, barreling down the highway in his station wagon, is in a horrible accident on the way to this long awaited rendezvous. Right behind him Frank (Robert Carlyle), driving a delivery truck. Frank calls 911, and being the good Samaritan, accompanies Steve to the hospital as he clings to life.

Okay, I have to stop. I admit it. I'm laughing.

Picture, if you will, a man lying in his nearly totalled station wagon with a steering wheel in his chest reminiscing about his lost love and how he just has to keep his date with destiny.

The problem isn't so much the sappy, schmaltzy storyline (Okay, that is actually part of the problem), but the awkwardly over-the-top performance of Goodman in delivering it. While I've long considered Goodman a vastly underrated actor, he's provided clear evidence here of his acting limitations. This, quite simply, is not a role that Goodman comes even close to pulling off.

After a seemingly endless ambulance ride, Steve agrees to go to the school, try to find Lisa and let her know that her dearest Steve really did want to show up.

The story evolves into a few predictable twists and turns, ending largely with Steve's own date with destiny after a few odd encounters with other students of Marilyn's school including the not so charming Randall (Donnie Wahlberg), his half-sister Meredith (Marisa Tomei) and, of course, Marilyn herself (Mary Steenburgen). Additional students show up here and there, in the persons of David Paymer, Sean Astin, Sonia Braga and a host of others who range from dazzling to downright dastardly.

Needless to say, lives will be changed, hearts will be healed, bodies will mend and destinies will be fulfilled by the end of "Marilyn Hotchkiss." "Marilyn Hotchkiss" isn't, by any means, an awful film. On the contrary, it's practically an exercise in "functional" cinema. It has a script, a plot, dialogue, actors and production design...all of these pieces fit together neatly, too neatly, in a paint-by-numbers film that, despite its overt pleading for us to get all weepy-eyed at the proceedings never actually develops a character worth caring about or a scenario that feels even remotely authentic.

Decent performances, especially by Tomei, Carlyle and Steenburgen, can't overcome that this one time film short doesn't have enough substance to become a feature film.

This is one dance where I will definitely sit out.  

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic