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Monday, February 10, 2014

UNHITCHED (THE BEST MAN) -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared at in 2006.)

Ollie (Stuart Townsend, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN) has two best friends--the handsome, successful James (Steve John Shepherd), and Ollie's roommate, a nebbishy Seth Green-lookalike named Murray (Seth Green).  James and Murray hate each other.  When James decides to get married and picks Ollie as his best man, comedy-type complications ensue when Ollie falls in love with the prospective bride, Sarah (the very cute Amy Smart of RAT RACE and STARSHIP TROOPERS). 

So, Murray hatches a devious plan to break up James and Sarah and get her and Ollie together.  (Okay, now watch this--I'm about to work the film's title into my next sentence.)  In other words, Murray is determined to keep James and Sarah...UNHITCHED (2006).  (See?  Clever, huh?)

This is a romantic comedy, so there are certain things you just know are going to happen.  First, Sarah is going to fall in love with Ollie and regret being engaged to James.  That's a given--we've seen this sort of thing before. 

Second, James is going to turn out to be a real jerk after all, so that instead of feeling sorry for him, we'll be glad when he loses Sarah to Ollie. 

Third, all of this is going to be alternately too cute and too sappy, and the comedy relief character--Murray--will be relied upon to funny things up now and then, with varying results. 
And fourth, I will never, ever watch this movie again, ever.  But of course, that's just me.  If you're into chick flicks, this may be right up your alley.

Ollie and Sarah first meet at a get-together she and James are having to celebrate their impending nuptials.  Ollie, whose bitchy boss Dana (Anna Chancellor) has kept him overtime again at the Women's Self-Help Books Publishing Company, where he works taking phone messages for her although he dreams of being an author but suffers from terminal writer's block, arrives late covered in pigeon crap (don't ask), falls down the stairs into the livingroom, and almost kills the bride's parents with a nine-iron when he tries out James' new virtual golf game, splitting the crotch of his pants in the bargain. 

This sequence reminded me a bit of Blake Edwards' hilarious comedy THE PARTY with Peter Sellers, and it looked as though UNHITCHED might be a pretty funny movie.  But alas, such amusing antics would turn out to be sporadic at best. 

Anyway, Ollie and Sarah meet, like I said, and yes, they meet cute. In fact, just about every time they encounter each other from then on, it's one "meet cute" after another.  Well, it's love at first sight for Ollie, and strangely enough, Sarah seems smitten with him right off the bat as well. 

So we're thinking, "Ah-ha!  This James guy must be a huge turd!"  But no, he surprises us by seeming like a pretty nice guy--boring, but nice--and we think, "Hey, wait a minute...we're supposed to feel good when Ollie steals Sarah away from him!" 

Sure enough, when Ollie's friend Murray (the guy who looks just like Seth Green because he's played by Seth Green) wages a successful smear campaign that has Sarah on the verge of walking out on James, we feel bad, and darn it, that's just not how these things are supposed to work. 

But never fear, because about three-quarters of the way through the movie, James suddenly turns into a callous, insensitive, womanizing a-hole.  Yay! 

But let's back up a bit, because one of the pivotal scenes occurs when we still think James is okay, although Sarah, deceived by Murray's devious anti-James activities, is on the verge of walking out on him, as I mentioned before.  James doesn't know what to do, because he's not as sweetly romantic as Ollie, so Ollie has an idea--write Sarah a goodbye letter, tell her all this mushy love stuff that will melt her heart, and make her come crawling back. 

But James doesn't know what to say, so he asks Ollie to write the letter for him.  Which gives Ollie the perfect chance to secretly tell Sarah how he really feels about her.  The letter ends up being a novella-length romantic fantasia of wonderfulness that shatters Ollie's writer's block!  And makes it possible for him to pee in public restrooms again!  (No, that isn't a non sequitur.) 

It's such a wonderful, heartfelt love letter, in fact, that we just know Sarah is bound to find out Ollie wrote it, which will unleash gushing torrents of feel-good wonderfulness before the movie's over.  But wait--there's still that little matter of the wedding. 

A wedding which, of course, must be crashed.  Earlier, we discover that Sarah works as a movie tester--that is, she screens movies for random audiences and questions them about it so the filmmakers can use their answers to make their movie better.  Ollie attends a screening (which, needless to say, James never did--hisssss!) of a comedy that ends with a wedding being crashed by a stoner on a skateboard, carrying a chihuahua named Dave.  This shows the bride how much he truly loves her and she runs off with him. 

Okay, I may be wrong, but I think that's what they call "foreshadowing."  Well, in the grand tradition of THE GRADUATE and a million other movies that came after it, Ollie will eventually find himself trying to get to the church on time while Murray does everything in his power to delay the ceremony, including faking a heart attack.

Will Ollie get there before the preacher makes that fateful pronouncement?  Or will he slink home in defeat, blubbering like a baby, like Lawrence Monoson at the end of THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN?  What do you think? 

This movie has "feel-good ending" stamped all over it, so it's pretty much a no-brainer.  The overall premise is so familiar by now that the only thing that might distinguish it is the originality of the details, which aren't very original. 

Seth Green does his best to liven things up (since the movie's set in London, his character is basically a feature-length version of the voice he used to mimic Jason Statham's "Handsome Rob" in THE ITALIAN JOB) though the script doesn't give him all that much to work with, and Stuart Townsend is saddled with a character that has to be alternately funny and sappy.  Steve John Shepherd is quite good as James, and Amy Smart is as winsome as ever. 

But UNHITCHED, though sporadically enjoyable, just can't figure out how to blend the "romantic" with the "comedy" well enough to keep both from coming out undercooked, and, ultimately, the funniest thing about it is the postscript during the closing credits where we get to see the stoner and the dog again.

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