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Thursday, December 31, 2009

FALLING UP -- DVD review by porfle

You know how sometimes you're hungry for a sandwich but you don't feel like going to the trouble of making one so you just settle for a piece of bread instead? FALLING UP (2009) is the cinematic equivalent of that piece of bread. (You can quote me on that.)

Joseph Cross (RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, MILK) plays Henry O'Shea, a nursing student who must leave school and get a job as a doorman in a ritzy Park Avenue apartment building to support his family after his father suffers a handball fatality. Sounds great already, but the part that must've really sold this premise to the backers comes when Henry uses his CPR training to save not only the resident blatantly-gay couple's dog, but also the boyfriend of a pretty young rich babe named Scarlett Dowling (Sarah Roemer, WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY, DISTURBIA) after he snorts too much coke during her 21st birthday party and has a seizure.

Henry's a hero to everyone in the building except snooty Mrs. Dowling (former Mrs. Tom Cruise, Mimi Rogers), who is horrified to discover that her daughter has become smitten with this common doorman and has him fired after they go out together. Well, there are certain things ya just know are going to happen in a rom-com situation like this, right? And they do. The end.

This is one of those perky and vaguely quirky little comedies that doesn't want to work up a sweat by being really funny, so it settles for cute. It's not so bad once you've settled into it, but once the plot gets going everything plops into place like one of those Playskool jigsaw puzzles with four or five pieces. The mildly amusing antics that we get seem to be acting as a placeholder for when the real comedy shows up, which it never does. Basically, FALLING UP is just a series of slightly amusing situations that never really amount to anything--it would probably have a heart attack if it turned a corner and ran into NIGHT SHIFT with Michael Keaton.

Scarlett, naturally, is fascinated by their cute new doorman right off the bat and, despite being a beautiful young girl with loads of money, seems wide open for business in the romance department. Which is exactly the way things like that never work out in real life but always do in chipper little romantic comedies. Sure, she's got a boyfriend, but "Buck" is a substance-abusing snob whose days are numbered as soon as Scarlett gets a load of Henry's blue-collar poor-guy charm.

The supporting cast boasts a few veterans who do what they can with their characters, including an under-utilized Joe Pantoliano as Henry's abrasive boss George and Annette O'Toole as his ditzy mom, who fits into her new job in a porno shop like she was working at an EZ Mart. Rachael Leigh Cook (BLONDE AMBITION, JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS) walks a lot of dogs as Henry's matchmaking sister, while Mimi Rogers as Scarlett's mom does the usual rich-bitch routine. Cross and Roemer are adequate but make pretty unexciting leads. Snoop Dogg, as Henry's slacker co-worker Raul, predictably seems rather blase' about the whole thing.

Production values are pretty good and director David M. Rosenthal does a capable but unremarkable job. The musical score by Mark Mothersbaugh sounds more like a string of bad MIDIs than something written by one of the masterminds behind Devo, with the occasional sappy emo ballad thrown in for effect.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Surround 2.0 and English subtitles. The sole extra is an unilluminating three-minute peek behind-the-scenes.

Like a candy bar that doesn't have enough nuts in it, FALLING UP is pleasant but singularly unrewarding. Even when it tries to work up a little GRADUATE-style vibe at the end, it just doesn't have the heart to do anything that might seem too impolite. The fadeout, which comes at such an abruptly non-climactic moment that I could almost hear Marge Simpson saying "Whaaa?", wants to be a fist-in-the-air moment but barely manages a limp pinky.

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