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Friday, March 8, 2013

LAY THE FAVORITE -- Blu-Ray review by porfle

If you like Bruce Willis but are tired of seeing him play a cool action hero,  the slight semi-comedy LAY THE FAVORITE (2012) is your big chance to see him as a professional Vegas sports gambler named Dink Heimowitz.  Yes, Dink Heimowitz.

This bland exercise in tiresome whimsy is also a chance to zone out for awhile, watch a few big name stars flail around in search of a script, and ogle some hot babes.  Chief among the latter is the bubbly Beth (a truly hot Rebecca Hall), who quits her job as a "private dancer" in smalltown Florida to go to Vegas and be a cocktail waitress.  She ends up in the employ of the aforementioned Dink, which turns out to be a dream job with a fun boss and coworkers, great pay and benefits, and four-hour lunch breaks.

Unfortunately, Dink has a jealous wife named Tulip (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who forces Dink to fire Beth--despite her being something of a gambling prodigy--or else.  As Dink's luck goes straight down the tubes without her, a heartbroken Beth flees to New York and ends up working for Dink's friend Rosie (Vince Vaughn), whose irresponsible approach to sports gambling puts her and her new nice-guy boyfriend Jeremy (Joshua Jackson) in danger of ending up in a federal prison.  So Dink, Beth, and Tulip must settle their differences and join forces to solve each other's problems before they all end up on the skids.

As laborious as it is to describe, LAY THE FAVORITE is even more of a chore to watch save for the occasional moments when it's actually as amusing as it struggles to be.  Rebecca Hall tackles the role of Beth Raymer (upon whose autobiography the film is based) with the enthusiasm of a cheerleader trying her best to push the rest of the team down the field, although her chief contribution is the fact that she's stunning to look at.  It's to her credit that she handles some of the goofy things the script requires her to do and say without coming off as a total ditz, yet her character is so hyper that watching her in action is akin to having pigeons loose in your house.

As for Bruce, he's low-key and mildly amusing as Dink, the sort of character he's able to put over without having to exert himself too much.  The same can be said for Catherine Zeta-Jones as Tulip--nothing she's required to do could be considered a stretch by any means.  Besides Rebecca Hall, the one who works the hardest here is Vince Vaughn, who expends so much effort vainly trying to create a comic character out of what he's been given that he's exhausting to watch. 

Fans of "That 70s Show" may be interested in seeing a blond Laura Prepon as Beth's stripper friend Holly, who appears topless in an early scene while struggling with a Southern accent.  FARGO's "Norm Gunderson", John Carroll Lynch, plays an unlucky gambler whose refusal to pay the seventy grand he owes Beth sets up the big crisis that must be resolved before the film can finally call it a day.  An almost unrecognizable Corbin Bernsen appears briefly as Beth's dad, Jerry.

Director Stephen Frears (DANGEROUS LIASONS, THE GRIFTERS) does a workmanlike job although the film is about as unremarkable as something of this type can be.  D.V. DeVincentis' screenplay adaptation of Beth Raymer's memoir barely manages to maintain our interest before generating a modicum of suspense in the final minutes.  With a lame "where are they now?" wrap-up, the story simply runs out of steam and comes to a merciful fade-out none too soon.

The Blu-Ray from Anchor Bay is in 1.85:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  The sole extra is a selection of deleted scenes. 

LAY THE FAVORITE is the kind of movie you start out hoping will be a pleasant surprise, and then eventually wish would simply hurry up and end.  You'd really have to be a hardcore fan of one of the stars for me to recommend it.  Otherwise, it's almost sure to disappoint.

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