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“Ser-en-dip-i-ty … n. 1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident. 2. good fortune; luck.” That’s how Webster’s Dictionary defines it. Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale, Pearl Harbor), a dark-haired, British beauty, puts it in a nutshell for charming New Yorker Jonathan Trager (John Cusack, America’s Sweethearts): “It’s a fortunate accident,” she says explaining their “desirable discovery” of one another (over the last pair of black cashmere gloves while Christmas shopping at Bloomingdale’s). It’s also the name of the intimate café where they savor the fortune of stealing a magical moment away from their significant others.

An ill gust of wind snatches Sara’s name and number from Jon’s grasp and she interprets it as a sign. Refusing to fly in the face of fate by rewriting her info, she writes it instead in a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera destined for a bookseller. She convinces Jon to write his on a $5 bill that she immediately spends at a newsstand. Then she walks out of his life — perhaps forever — surrendering their future meeting to chance or destiny.

Serendipity sounds as if it could be a flavor found in some fashionable café. But this romantic comedy isn’t rich and full-bodied: It’s as light as the foam in a nonfat cappuccino. Cusack is the main ingredient bringing out the charm Serendipity substitutes for sweetness.

A retouched postcard of New York City (and just as deep), Serendipity portrays a Gotham (and its lives) beyond tragic blights as perfectly as it digitally paints out the fallen twin towers from its skylines. Maybe this is Hollywood medicine on the same order as the post-Depression musicals — or just a sugar pill offering us the empty, but soothing, promise of a fantasy world immaculately operating on a divine plan where the calendars have no Sept. 11s and the fates produce only Hollywood endings.

Visit the official Serendipity Web site at

E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].

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