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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

FALL INTO ME -- movie review by porfle

(This review originally appeared online at in 2008.)

After a computer-animated titles sequence that looks like it cost more than the rest of the movie, FALL INTO ME (2006) introduces us to Steve (Ron Menzel), a literary-minded ex-advertising whiz who drives an elementary school bus while trying to forget his old flame Brandy (Meisha Johnson).  Which he does as soon as he cute-meets Maria (co-writer Heidi Fellner) at a coffee shop and then again at the hospital where she's a counsellor for chronic disease patients.  After a rather twisted plot contrivance, Maria believes that Steve suffers from something called Addison's Disease, a notion that Steve oddly finds himself unable or unwilling to dispel.

For some reason, we're led to believe that Steve must continue to pretend that he has Addison's Disease in order to get Maria to like him.  The fact that Maria already likes him, and indeed is a bit creepily attracted to him right off the bat--she looks as though she's ready to fall into Steve from her very first adoring closeup, although I was at a loss to figure out why--makes the charade seem not only unnecessary but tiresomely contrived. 

Anyway, Steve finds out what the symptoms of Addison's Disease are--including hair loss, vomiting, and diarrhea--so that he can imitate them.  This is really more than a little distasteful, not to mention just plain dumb.  Later, Steve finds that Addison's disease is incurable, meaning that he must continue the charade indefinitely.

"It makes sense if you think about it," Steve tells his sister Angela (Stacia Rice), whom he lives with (some swingin' bachelor, eh?)  To which she replies, "This...will not work."  Shoulda listened to Sis, Steve-o.

Steve's former ad agency partners, Ian and Jason (Andre Samples and Ian Justen Jones), need their old "Happy Steve" back in the creative saddle with them again, so they encourage this weird courting ritual.  At the same time, Maria's overprotective roommate Sonja (Kimberly Morgan) keeps a suspicious eye on Steve, while the brainy 12-year-old Marlon (Tony Williams), one of Steve's school bus regulars, gives him valuable life advice based on the behavior of animals such as possums and octopi.  Wow...that looks really dumb when I write it down, but Marlon is actually a pretty good character.

As this situation dragged on, I kept thinking, "Why are we messing with this sub-sitcom-level Addison's Disease crap?"  Especially since we know that somewhere down the line the truth is going to come out and create this big artificial stumbling block in their relationship, and we'll have to suffer through all the obligatory developments that follow until the eventual reconciliation.  I won't tell you how this happens except to say that Steve has an ace up his sleeve that has something to do with his talents as an ad man.

Most of this is so lightweight that it's barely more substantial than the simulated construction paper cutouts in the title animations, with performances that often look as though director Tim VandeSteeg just secretly filmed the initial script run-through to save time.  The dialogue tries to be light but ends up being turgid, with clunky punchlines to end every joke with a thud and every romantic encounter with a cold shiver of sickly-sweet creepiness.  Fortunately, the musical score supplies plenty of continuous boppity-poppity funky-lite or tinkly romantic piano music to remind us of how adorably cute everything is.

Just about the only time the movie lights up is when Steve and Maria actually do fall into each other for the first time after Steve shows up for their second date at 7:00 am instead of 7:00 pm.  And then we get the only really funny joke after they have sex, when she asks him "Why did you come so early?"

There is a surprise twist to it all, though, which gives the whole thing a new dimension even if you see it coming a mile away, and in the last act things get rather serious and emotional in a good way.  Or least, not as bad a way as most of the goofy stuff that comes before it.  The movie ends much better than it begins, but by that point a pretty good ending isn't quite enough to make watching the rest of FALL INTO ME seem preferable to falling into a peaceful slumber.

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