Life or Something Like It

Lanie Kerrigan (Angelina Jolie) is one of those plastic people, like an “Entertainment Tonight” host, too perfect to be human, with a blinding bleached-blond hair helmet and harsh, form-fitted suits (a la Big Business Barbie). She’s a local Seattle newscaster up for a national spot promotion when an off-the-cuff prediction by a soapbox prophet sends her into a “how can this happen to me” tizzy.

Forced to re-evaluate her hair-sprayed existence — like a female, much more superficial Jerry Maguire — Lanie finds moral support in her former-fling-cameraman, Pete (Ed Burns). With his natural, low-key good looks and hypnotic, soothing gravelly voice, Burns (Sidewalks of New York) works as Lanie’s solid shoulder to lean on, able to tease and supply her with life philosophies and substance at the same time.

But this is Jolie’s first venture into comedy, and although well-endowed enough to play dramatic, action and hottie roles, she doesn’t have the chops to carry lines that call for a comedic magician to pull them off. Life’s script is mediocre at best, relying on repeated catch phrases like, “Are you trying to have sex with me?” and Altoids metaphors. Maybe it would have helped Jolie to lock herself in a room for 24 hours watching Nicole Kidman’s brilliantly contorted and ironic rendition of weather girl Suzanne Stone in To Die For. Or maybe she was just miscast.

When in doubt, blame the director. Stephen Herek has directed films ranging anywhere from sci-fi silly (Critters) to squeaky-clean (Disney’s 101 Dalmatians) to action-dramatic (The Three Musketeers). Perhaps he was having trouble balancing the drama and humor with the absurdness of the situation, relying on goofy sped-up cartoonlike camera work whenever things seemed to be getting too heavy.

It’s easy to see what the film’s trying to do: transmit a moral professing the value of substance and loyalty, using a lighthearted approach. It just doesn’t gel very well.

Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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