GO - THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS (1999) - THE MATRIX
THE MOD SQUAD - 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU

GO

Ronna (Sarah Polley, "The Sweet Hereafter"), Claire (Katie Holmes, TV's "Dawson's Creek") and Mannie (Nathan Bexton) are supermarket clerks. Simon (Desmond Askew) and Marcus (Taye Diggs, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back") are partying on the Vegas strip in a stolen car. Adam (Jay Mohr, "Jerry MacGuire") and Zack (Scott Wolf, TV's "Party of Five") are soap stars looking to party with 20 friends. When Ronna's desperation for rent money leads her to Simon's drug dealer Todd (Timothy Olyphant, "Scream 2"), she sets off a chain of events that cause them all to cross paths during 24 hours at an L.A. Christmas rave in director Doug Liman's ("Swingers") "Go."

Laura's review of 'Go'
"Go" is like an American Gen-Xer version of the Brit sensation "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" with slightly more varied situations and quite a bit less violence. Even though we've seen this type of story structure before (as in the far less successful "200 Cigarettes"), screenwriter John August makes everything seem fresh.

Director Doug Liman was the perfect choice for this material. As in his "Swingers," it has a hyperkinetic rhythm, is set mostly at night, follows characters from LA to Vegas and features a young cast spouting hip, but natural language.

The film is laugh out loud funny. Suave Marcus lectures his buddies on the wonders of tantric sex at a Vegas restaurant. Hours later, his clueless and thoroughly impulsive pal Simon is trying it out with two bridesmaids from a wedding he's crashed. Manny takes two hits of pharmaceutical quality Ecstacy and begins to play mind games with a cat. Adam and Zack are busted by a cop (William Fichtner, "Armageddon") who not only keeps remarking on their physiques, but insists on taking them home for an early Christmas dinner being prepared by his 'come-hither' wife Irene (Jane Krakowski, TV's "Ally McBeal"). These filmmakers even manage to make the shock of seeing one of the lead characters being hit by a car evoke laughter at the sheer unexpectedness of it within its scene.

The ensemble cast, mostly comprised of young indie actors, all do great work. Desmond Askew is manically funny as the screwup Brit who gets his friend Marcus into increasingly tough jams. He made me cringe with his slapstick handling of a gun he joyously finds in the glove compartment of a stolen sports car. Timothy Olyphant fleshes out his sarcastic and hedonistic drug dealer enough to become believably likeable when a young woman opens up to him through conversation instead of sex. Taye Diggs is more confident and mature than the gang he travels with, yet still gets laughs from the way he sports his mustard colored jacket. Mohr and Wolf have marvelous chemistry together.

Sara Polley carries the film as its pivot point and is the most serious and world weary of the bunch - an excellent straight woman for the zaniness around her that she's ironically created.

While every character, with the exception of Claire, engages in activity that's not exactly praiseworthy, they all remain likeable.

The film features a punchy soundtrack matched by its editting. It returns to an early scene several times in order to transition to its different story lines, each of which features one character telling another to "Go!"

B+

Robin's Review of 'Go'
Sophomore director Doug Liman, frosh feature writer John August and an ensemble cast of character actors and unknowns have launched themselves into the big league with "Go." This trilogy of youthful scheming and mishap is deftly handled on all fronts and provides a lot of young actors a chance to stretch their thesping wings. The three stories followed are each tight and complete and tied together in interesting and entertaining ways. The general mature feel of the film gives it an air of experience that belies the limited experience of its director, writer and actors. These relative newcomers craft a fast-paced, intelligent, multi-layered film with a diverse ensemble cast that perform like seasoned vets.

The lead tale stars young Sarah Polley ("The Sweet Hereafter") as Ronna, a convenience store clerk who is about to be thrown out of her apartment, on Christmas Eve. After finishing a 14-hour stint at the store, she decides to take the shift of co-worker Simon (Desmond Askew) (who moonlights drug-dealing) for extra money to try to get her digs back. While working, she is approached by two of Simon's customers and agrees to do a deal herself. The arrangement turns out to be a police sting operation and Ronna barely escapes the clutches of the law. She then learns that the dealer she ripped off, Todd (Timothy Olyphant), is hunting her down, too. It turns out to not be a good day for Ronna.

Story two follows Simon and his three cohorts as they hit the road for a wild time in Las Vegas. Two of the quartet, though warned repeatedly, make the mistake of loading up on shrimp from an all-you-can-eat buffet. Their ensuing food poisoning sidelines the pair for the duration. The remaining duo, Simon and Marcus (Taye Diggs, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back") hit the town on the lookout for fun. They end up in a notorious, high roller strip joint where the overly enthusiastic Simon breaks the rules and touches, well, grabs, one of the dancers. The scuffle that follows ends in gunplay, forcing the boys on the lam only to be hunted by the vengeful club owner, Victor Sr. (J.E. Freeman, "Dance with Me") and his wounded son, Victor Jr. (Jimmy Shubert).

The last tale follows a pair of actors, Adam (Scott Wolf) and Zack (Jay Mohr), who star in a cop soap opera and had the bad luck to get caught buying drugs. They either face arrest or agree to go undercover in the scam that pulls in the unsuspecting and, up to now, innocent Ronna. When Zack warns Ronna of the sting, the disappointed cop-in-charge Burke (William Fichtner) forces Adam and Zack to celebrate Christmas with him and his libidinous wife (Jane Krakowski). The couple's apparent sexual come on scares the boys, who happen to be a gay couple, until the two realize that the cop and his wife are recruiters for an Amway-like concern and not for kinky sex.

The screenplay, by August, is tightly written in each tale told, with interesting cross-threads weaving the three stories together. The structure of each yarn allows them to stand alone. (The original script was intended as short film on the first story, about Ronna.) August puts the same care into each of the anecdotes. The segue used to anchor each story - an extended scene of Ronna and Simon making their deal - is too lengthy and, initially, confusing to the viewer. Otherwise, the author shows an amazing skill for a first-timer.

Liman, who made a notable splash with his debut funny guy flick, "Swingers," makes an even bigger splash with his second effort. The dexterity in which he handles the large ensemble cast and complicated story indicates that this guy is heading to a successful and, hopefully, innovative career as a filmmaker.

The cast is first rate across the board, with Sarah Polley and Timothy Olyphant ("Scream 2") giving the most notable performances. Olyphant, as the local drug source, Todd, is likable and menacing at the same time. Polley has a commanding screen presence as Ronna. She resembles, a bit, Uma Thurman, but shows a great deal more skill and talent as an actor. Everyone else gives a yeoman's effort and provide fully fleshed out and amusing performances.

I had anticipated the arrival of "Go" solely on the strength of Liman's first work. I am more than satisfied with the effort and applaud all involved. The film works on many levels and is successful in nearly all of them. There are also some budding careers coming out of this, too.

I give "Go" a go. Make that a B+.


THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS (1999)

Based on the original screenplay by Neal Simon, and adapted by Marc Lawrence, Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn are Henry and Nancy Clark, an Ohio couple who have just sent the last of the kids off to college. For the first time in their 24 years of marriage, they are alone with only each other. To complicate matter, Henry has lost his job (without telling Nancy) and is heading to New York City for a last-chance job interview. The unsuspecting Nancy tags along on the trip, hoping to put the spark back into their marriage. The couple get a whole lot more than they bargained for in "The Out-of-Towners."

Robin's Review of 'The Out-Of-Towners'
This rendition of the Neal Simon play would be better titled "The Out-of-Towners Lite." Comparison to the much better and far more darkly humorous 1970 version, directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis, is inevitable. The original, with the screenplay by Simon, is an allegory on the decay of urban life and one man's fight against a heartless system. Casting Lemmon as the everyman was brilliant concept, with the actor defining mid-western angst in the face of the metropolitan monolith. Dennis is near genius as his loyal wife with a voice that can peel paint. The downward spiral the Ohio-ites experience builds steadily into a knot of anxiety for the hapless pair AND the viewer.

This lite version of "The Out-of-Towns" adapts the original screenplay to the politically correct 90's. New York is cleaned up - in the original, the city was rife with crime and civic strikes - looking wonderful, but removing the edge of Simon's original story.

Hawn has her moments but her character does not have the mid-western innocence so wonderfully portrayed by Dennis in the original. Hawn's Nancy is far too hip and tough to be pushed around, giving the character too much of a veteran urban dweller sensibility and defensiveness when up against the wall.

Martin gives his expected solid comic performance, but lacks the angst-ridden character that Lemmon provided (one of that actor's best performances.) Martin gets to shine out with his masterful physical humor only toward the end, after he mistakenly drops acid instead of aspirin while in jail. There is not enough of Martin's slapstick, physical humor so well displayed by the comedian in Carl Reiner's film, "All of Me."

John Cleese is amusing as the snooty hotel manager, but the transvestite nature of the character, represented in a Silly Walks dance stoically performed by Cleese, borders on the absurd. His character, Mersault, is more the product of writer Lawrence's Hollywood imagination than that of Neal Simon. The filmmakers fail to fully capitalize on the famous physical comedy of either of the two male leads.

Having seen the original film recently, I was able to experience, again, the utter sense of desperation that Lemmon's George falls into as he uses all his meager will and means to fight back against the overwhelming pressure of a city wrought with crime, city strikes, rude people and perverts. The latest "Out-of-Towners" is more a lengthy sit-com that lightly recaps many of the original's highlight moments and adds a few of its own. The treat comes from watching its veteran leads ably ply their ware.

I give "The Out-of-Towners" a B-.

Laura's review of 'The Out-Of-Towners'
Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin are together again in Boston ("Houseguest") in Marc Lawrence's ("Forces of Nature") update of the Neil Simon comedy "The Out-of0Towners." As in the original, which starred Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis, Nancy and Henry Clark are travelling to New York from Ohio so that Henry can interview for a high-powered ad executive job. While there are some other similarities (a mugging, lack of food, a night spent in Central Park), this film veers from the original in a number of ways. The Clarks' central conflict is trying to kickstart an empty-nester marriage which never seems that precarious to begin with. Nancy doesn't realize that Henry's lost his job, making this interview more crucial than she thinks. This "Out-of-Towners" lacks the bite of the original. After all, New York City has undergone a major image change in the past decade, and is nowhere near as tough and threatening as it once was.

Hawn, who supposedly once was her husband's partner in the advertising business, gives us an inexplicably ditzy Nancy, always aflutter, from her eyelashes to her slender, ankle boot clad legs. Hawn is lit to look softer, younger, but the opposite effect is achieved and she spends half the film looking like she has a darker shade of foundation over her lip. She has her moments, such as when she's seducing a bar patron in order to secure the key to his hotel room, but this is not the luminous Hawn of Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You." Martin fares better, getting to trot out his brand of uptight, sarcastic rage and show the art of the double take in its finest form. Even Martin seems subdued by the weak material, though, until he gets to unleash his superb physical comedy all too late in the film.

Most maligned by the script is the great John Cleese, who's reduced here to giving also-ran retreads of his "Fawlty Towers" schtick and silly walk routine.

The film's good moments are few and far between. The couple is approached on the street with the age-old scam of a well-dressed man embarrassed to be asking for money for a cab. After convincing Nancy that he's Andrew Lloyd Webber (he does bear a faint resemblance), providing Hawn the opportunity to play out a goofy "Cats" reminiscence, he pulls a gun on them. Hawn has an comically credible meltdown in a police station. Martin's climactic, job-winning speech is a nice, New York embracing, riff on the original film.

However, the misfires and some boring replays of scenes executed far more sharply by Dennis and Lemmon, generally sink this "The Out-of-Towners."

C


THE MATRIX

The telephone is both an instrument of escape and of capture for the group of humans led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) who are trying to expose the matrix to the rest of human civilization.

When Thomas Anderson, aka Neo, (Keanu Reeves) is induced by his computer to 'follow the white rabbit,' a tattoo in said form leads him to Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), a member of Morpheus' band. They believe Neo is 'the one' who may be able to overcome the invincible Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving, "Priscilla, the Queen of the Desert"), one of the machines who control the matrix. Neo is about to go through the mind-blowing experience of discovering that all that is real is not and reality itself is almost too much for a human to comprehend.

Laura's review of 'The Matrix'
Written and directed by the talented Wachowski Brothers ("Bound"), "The Matrix" is comprised of dazzling special effects, stunt work, and cinematic tricks that are eye candy of the highest order. The script, which resembles "Dark City" with more action and a prettier star, unfortunately doesn't always hold up in the logic department.

Morpheus and his underground resistance fighters are able to download programs into their brains, enabling them to become experts in kung fu and helicopter pilotting in seconds. The stars spent four months training with Chinese wire-stunt choreographer Yuen Wo Ping in order to be able to float through the air and become temporarily suspended. Super slow motion photography (12,000 frames per second) and animated still photography were combined to create startling visual effects. Production design by Owen Paterson combines modern day Sydney with gothic industrial sets to create dual realities. Effects sequences, such as Neo being reborn in a fleshily mechanical birth canal, recall such films "Alien," "Lost Highway" and "Altered States." The film looks fantastic.

Keanu Reeves is well suited to the reluctant hero role. While he does little to develop his acting skills, he looks great. This is a good vehicle for him. Newcomer Carrie-Anne Moss not only looks great in sleek black bodysuits, she's elegant, tough and intriguing. Hugo Weaving is a terrific villain, speaking with a just-off cadence that makes him seem not quite human (think John Sayles in "Brother From Another Planet" only better). When Neo, thinking he's dealing with F.B.I., demands his right to a telephone, Weaving drolly asks 'What good is a phone call if you can't speak?' before Neo's mouth disappears. Fishburne is quietly regal and commanding as the mythical Morpheus. Joe Pantoliano ("Bound") is shifty and cynical as Cypher (why, though, does only Neo appear to treat this comrade with suspicion?).

The film both succeeds and fails with some novel ideas. On the cool side, deja vu is an indication of a glitch in the matrix. The oracle, highly regarded by the Morpheus mob, is a middle-aged black woman who bakes cookies - part seer, part 'Dear Abby.'

On the flip side, the script just mixes too many sci-fi elements and doesn't stick to its own rules. The need for the titular matrix is never really explained - a serious problem. Early references to 'Alice in Wonderland' are oddly dropped. A mechnical scorpion 'bug' which enters human bodies is straight out of "Dark City." Costuming looks cool, but wouldn't long, flowing, black coats hinder kung fu fighters?

"The Matrix" should please fans of sci-fi and Keanu, but it came so close to being so much better.

B

Robin's Review of 'The Matrix'
"The Matrix" is head-banging action fare that benefits from its hip slickness, innovative martial arts, original special F/X and good-looking stars. Writing/directing brothers, Larry and Andy Wachowski, who created the kitchy original "Bound", have changed direction and head for the science fiction front in a tale of alternate reality and the slavery of man by machine. The results are a great look and lots of appeal, but story logic problems keep it from being great.

The original script by the Wachowski brothers borrows its materials liberally from a variety of sources, from its man-versus-machine theme a la "The Terminator" to the war flicks about the Resistance in World War II to "Alien Resurrection" to "Kung Fu," the TV series. At one point I half-expected to have Laurence Fishburne's character Morpheus call his protigi , Neo (Keanu Reeves), "grasshopper."

The derivative story and a couple of weak points keep it out of the realm of such sci-fi classics as the two "Terminator" films, "Alien," "Blade Runner (the director's cut)" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still." There are frequent jumps between the pure F/X eye candy and the sinister, but philosophical, man-versus-machine story, so the action sometimes stops abruptly and switches to talky interludes used to push forward the plot. Another is the requirement of the viewer to accept story premises where the fake world is maintained for no real reason than to explain our false "reality."

Reeves, like the visual F/X, is eye candy for the viewer (I noted two twenty-something ladies at the screening I attended. They did not appear to be the typical sci-fi dweebs, so I can only guess that Keanu has potential to draw in the ladies. He is pretty.)

Hugo Weaving is exemplary as the ubiquitous Agent Smith, a cheeky cyborg who is in charge of managing the fantasy world of the Matrix, but, like any working stiff, wants out of his work world and a return to his own personal bliss. Smith is far more human than he thinks and Weaving gives a notable perf with his machine-like precision of movement and speech.

Laurence Fishburne, as the noble Morpheus, is mostly a symbol of authority and wisdom. He's kind of like John the Baptist to the Kung Fu Christ figure of Neo. Newcomer Carrie-Anne Moss, as the enigmatic freedom fighter, Trinity, does not have much in the way of dialog, but has a commanding physical on-screen presence.

The F/X are ground-breaking with the martial arts work involving months of training by the principle players. Hong Kong fight coordinator Yuen Wo Ping ("Once Upon a Time in China") has utilized elaborate and precise wire work to enhance his actors' physical movements. This beautifully choreographed fight work is coupled with imaginative and exciting photography by Bill Pope (who, the press kit claims, once saw a Grizzly bear), utilizing special, ultra-high speed technology to get a different, new look.

Production designer Owen Paterson ("The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert") and costumer Kym Barrett ("Zero Effect") contribute to the visual excitement with spooky views into the machine-controlled harvesting of human "fuel" and tight black clothing, long flowing coats and guns - a whole lot of guns. The bullet count in this film would make John Wu proud.

A tighter, cleaner story could only have helped "The Matrix" become one of the greats of its genre. I still like it a bunch and give it a B+.


THE MOD SQUAD

Based on the original screenplay by Neal Simon, and adapted by Marc Lawrence, Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn are Henry and Nancy Clark, an Ohio couple who have just sent the last of the kids off to college. For the first time in their 24 years of marriage, they are alone with only each other. To complicate matter, Henry has lost his job (without telling Nancy) and is heading to New York City for a last-chance job interview. The unsuspecting Nancy tags along on the trip, hoping to put the spark back into their marriage. The couple get a whole lot more than they bargained for in "The Out-of-Towners."

Robin's Review of 'The Mod Squad'
From the 70's, faux rock, cheesy guitar score to the film's epilogue as Pete, Julie and Linc walk into the sunset together, "The Mod Squad" works hard to capture the look, sound and feel of the series, which ran for four seasons (1968-1973). The question that I beg be asked is: Why? The show lost its steam and fell by the wayside as the current events of the time (Vietnam and Nixon come to mind) yanked us away from the hip na oveti of the series. Updating the stale material to the 90's does not revive any long dead interest in the concept.

We know we're in the midst of 70's nostalgia TV when the three protagonists use lines like: "Right on", "Freaky," and "I'm cool." The only lingo clichi not openly used is "groovy." This is supposed to be hip writing (by director Scott Silver, Stephen Kaye and Kate Lanier), but only comes across as forced, aimed to push viewer nostalgia buttons. Series originator and the film's executive producer, Aaron Spelling, is looking for recognition, from the viewer, of the original show - mainly, I think, with hopes that everyone who did see it forgot how bad the series really was. The fault of the film is neither with its makers or its stars. Everyone on both sides of the camera (excepting the screenwriters) do their best to give the "The Mod Squad" the retro look and feel of the original, but, again, who cares?

The squad of mods - Julie (Claire Danes), Linc (Omar Epps) and Pete (Giovanni Ribisi) - provide the same level of character development that the series provided - none. Their mentor, Greer (Dennis Farina), reprises the Tige Andrews role, from the series, of the tough-but-fair cop who recruit the trio. Farina is given virtually no time to build his character and his relationship to his wards before he is killed. This leave the three kids, and the story, anchorless.

The young cast of stars comes off well despite the bland material. Omar Epps, as Linc Hayes, gives the closest duplication of the role by Clarence Williams III. Like Williams, Epps plays Linc as tough, cynical and a natural leader. Unlike the other two, Linc sees his work for Greer as a real second chance and Epps conveys both his natural rebellion and subtle acquiescence to Greer's honest authority. Epps adds a Wesley Snipes-like intensity to the mix and carries himself like the character's originator.

Claire Danes fleshes out the flat character of Julie Barnes as played by Peggy Lipton, giving Julie more flamboyance and life. This time, Julie is a recovering, 12-step-attending alcoholic with an attitude. Giovanni Ribisi has some goofy fun in his space cadet portrayal of Pete Cochrane, a more serious character in the series. Beneath the principles, and aside from the totally under-utilized Dennis Farina, there is little beyond the bevy of bad guys - and, there are bad guys galore. Virtually every cop, except Greer and the Mod Squad, and everyone else in the film are involved in the elaborate drug scam and prostitution ring. The only way the writers could make the heavies more obvious would be to give them all tee shirts with "BAD GUY" emblazoned across the back.

It's too bad that all the effort was given to remake the original "Mod Squad." The show was a small blip on the TV radar. Despite the quality of this rendition - kudos to all involved in recreating the original - it is still a bogus, boring film. I give it a D+.

Laura's review of 'The Mod Squad'
The early 70's TV show 'The Mod Squad' was never very good to being with, but Hollywood is just hell-bent on continuing its disastrous penchant for film versions of old TV shows. "The Mod Squad" is a boring, pointless and uninspired waste of time.

Indie filmmaker Scott Silver ("johns") baffles with the decision to cowrite (with Kate Lanier) and direct this, as do stars' Claire Danes, Giovanni Ribisi and Omar Epps (as Julie, Pete and Linc) acceptance of these roles. Danes has never been more lifeless or miscast than she is here, mostly moping and smiling around an old boyfriend from her junkie days (Josh Brolin) who clearly has 'VILLAIN!' stamped on his forehead. Ribisi tries (maybe too hard) to inject humor into the proceedings as the hair-trigger, screwup Pete. Epps has Linc's stare down pat, but none of the menace - he's mostly used as Ribisi's straight man. Oscar nominee Michael Lerner ("Barton Fink") gives an out-there performance as a music exective/drug lord who so enjoys dancing he ropes Linc into twirling him around an abandoned airline hangar.

Thankfully, "The Mod Squad" only runs 94 minutes. It's only chance of clicking is if its youth marketted soundtrack album suceeds, which may have been the only real goal here.

D


10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU

Denver temp Karen McCullah Lutz and San Fernando talent manager assistant Kirsten Smith joined forces to write a modern day teenage update of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" called "10 Things I Hate About You." The film stars Julia Stiles (who'll also be seen this year in two more teenage Shakespearean updates) as Kat Stratford, a smart and determined young woman who can't be bothered currying favor with her classmates. Australian Heath Ledger is Patrick Verona, the loner who's paid to date her so that her younger sister Bianca (Larisa Oleynik) can date class hunk, the dim and narcissistic Joey (Andrew Keegan). Bianca's also being pursued by the sweet Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Cameron's goofy buddy Michael (David Krumholtz) engineers everyone's pairing up. (Watch the 2nd clip closely to catch sight of Boston band Letters to Cleo.)

Laura's review of '10 Things I Hate About You'
"10 Things I Hate About You" cements a new film genre - the teenage classic remake (think "Cruel Intentions," an update of "Les Liaisons Dangereux"). While this film doesn't follow its source material quite as closely, the modifications that have been made are smart choices for today's audiences. Patrick doesn't beat Kat into submission so much as quietly and relentlessly woo her, breaking down her exterior brittleness rather than her spirit. The "Romeo and Juliet" references (Patrick Verona, Padua High School), however, are a weak attempt to refer to the bard (apparently any Shakespeare will do).

The largely unknown cast sparkles. Stiles, a veteran of the New York stage, makes her prickly Kat so intriguing that we're left to wonder why someone has to be paid to attempt to get to know her. I suppose the shallowness of High School society can account for this. Heath Ledger is a real find as her romantic interest. He's portrayed as another sullen outsider rumored to have spent a year in prison. Patrick's real story underscores his innate sweetness and Ledger glows in one scene where he pays off the high school marching band in order to serenade Kat from stadium bleachers while being chased by school security. Gordon-Levitt creates an appealing Cameron totally unlike his character on TV's "Third Rock From the Sun." Oleynik transitions Bianca from a stuck up looker to the nice young girl Cameron believes her to be. The always entertaining Krumholtz ("Slums of Beverly Hills") provides hijinks.

Particularly refreshing is Larry Miller ("Seinfeld," "Mad About You") as Kat and Bianca's single parent. Miller and the script create an amusingly fearful parent who's not more clueless than his kids. He's a gynecologist overly fearful of teenage pregnancy which provides for a number of funny and irreverent lines. Daryl Mitchell ("Home Fries") is Mr. Malcolm, a frustrated English Lit teacher who's speciality is throwing his best student, Kat, out of his class. The only sour note comes from character actress Allison Janney ("Primary Colors") as the school councilor who's more involved with writing bodice-rippers than listening to her charges. The script gives her nothing but obvious and unfunny material.

Veteran television director Gil Junger (the 'coming out' episode of "Ellen") makes his feature film debut with this pleasantly acted, light romantic comedy. Filmed on location in Tacoma, Washington, which stands in for Seattle, the movie features a gorgeous craftsman home overlooking Puget Sound as the Stratfod home and the castle-like Stadium High School (hear named Padua High), which was originally built by the Northern Pacific Railway as a hotel (they built the famous Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City).

B-


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