Sometimes the best woman for the job…is a man.
Oh, joy. Yet another romantic comedy care of Artisan Home Entertainment. Be still my beating heart.
(Somebody recently told me I'm way too cynical for my own good. Is this true? I can handle the truth.)
Facts of the Case
Ryan Turner (Charlie Sheen, Major League, The Chase) has the perfect life. He has a high-paying career, a beautiful girlfriend (Denise Richards, Starship Troopers, Wild Things) and a pristine apartment in New York. At least, that's at first glance. Ryan has also been cheating on Cindy, a vapid, gold-digging, shallow woman who happens to write a thus far unsuccessful advice column for a small metropolitan newspaper. Cindy has been incessantly trying to drag Ryan to the altar because her vision of a perfect life consists of being married to a guy with a lot of money. As it happens, however, Ryan's cheating leads to a bad stock tip and he loses his job and all of his money on a bum investment. Completely destitute, he moves in with Cindy, who quickly decides to run off to Brazil with the owner of a diamond mine. In a twist that would make the creators of Three's Company proud, Ryan, desperate for a paycheck, begins to impersonate Cindy and write her advice column. His first attempt is less than successful, and the paper's publisher Page Hensen (Angie Harmon, TV's Law and Order) tries to axe the column. Through some strategic legal wrangling and after some advice from his lifelong chum Barry (Jon Lovitz, Rat Race, News Radio), Ryan manages to turn the column into a winner by finding and portraying his sensitive side. As a result, the paper's circulation begins to climb, but trouble ensues as Page and Ryan begin to fall for each other (like you didn't see that coming) and Cindy returns from Brazil to discover that she's famous.
When I stared at the pile of screeners and saw what was obviously a romantic comedy from Artisan, I thought I was doomed. Let's face the facts here. I haven't seen a good film with the Artisan label on it in quite some time. I keep reviewing really crummy movies like Luck Of The Draw and The Mangler 2, and this is something I blame on bad luck moreso than on Artisan. To be honest, I actually found Good Advice to contain a couple of genuine laughs. Imagine the shock! Ryan's initial attempts at writing an advice column were pretty much along the lines of what I'd write, with advice consisting of words of wisdom not too unlike "Get over it, dumbass." An amazingly funny moment came when Page dragged Ryan down to a show that consisted of what I could only describe as "anal performance art." I am certainly not going to wreck the shock and surprise, but I was as completely dumbfounded and about fell out of my chair. This really needs to be seen to be believed, and the scary part is that somebody probably actually does stuff like this. I'd also like to point out that the performance artist was portrayed by a guy named Geremy Dingle, and that I'm not making that name up. Please don't misunderstand me in thinking that Good Advice is a great film, because it simply is not. Good Advice is rather mediocre with a few terrific moments and a couple good laughs. It's relatively mindless and certainly harmless in just about every way, and some times those are good traits for a movie.
The acting is surprisingly decent in Good Advice. I have to admit that I've never been a huge fan of Charlie Sheen, but I know he can do comedy pretty well (see Major League or The Chase if you don't believe me). Denise Richards is a caricature of the empty-headed, gold-digging girlfriend, which is a part she seems to revel in. I've always been impressed with Angie Harmon's skills on Law and Order, but the big question was whether or not she could handle a comedic role. The answer is "absolutely." Harmon is a terrific talent and I'd like to see her in bigger movie roles some day.
The script to Good Advice is fairly commonplace and predictable, but Steve Rash manages to demonstrate capable directing skills for a comedy. Timing on the gags is excellent, with a couple of parts being drawn out for the proper laughs when they needed to be. I only wish Rash had been that funny on his audio commentary, which consisted of "this scene was done on day fifteen, which was an eighteen hour day and we were all very tired by this point." I was tired after ten minutes of that nonsense.
Artisan has given Good Advice as good of a transfer as a low-budget comedy is going to get. The colors are decent enough and there are no problems with graininess and only the slightest amounts of edge enhancement. These are not problems that will distract you from the movie. The sound is also decent but the film doesn't really take advantage of the 5.1 channel output. The special features consist of the theatrical trailer, a bunch of advertisements for other Artisan releases, and the aforementioned commentary.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I really have a serious problem with most romantic comedies. They all pretty much follow the same formula:
Boy meets girl.
Boy loses girl.
There's some sort of a wacky chase or scheme.
Boy gets girl.
Have I missed anything here?
I'll grant you that Good Advice tries hard to deviate from the norm, but it just can't manage it. Ten minutes into the film and you realize that Ryan and Page are going to hook up for some serious hot steamy monkey sex by the end credits. There just doesn't seem to be any real suspense in romantic comedies any more. Did I mention that I might be starting to be too cynical?
On top of the obvious plot conventions, all of the stereotypical characters are present. There's the insensitive, knuckle-dragging alpha male who learns sensitivity to get the girl (Sheen), the air-headed Barbie⁚ doll (Richards), the tough-as-nails female entrepreneur trying to make it in a man's world (Harmon), the troll-like comic relief (Lovitz), the horny old lady (the very funny Estelle Harris, who continually cracked me up as George's mother on Seinfeld), and the horny woman who puts up with a troll-like husband because he's a plastic surgeon (Rosanna Arquette, Pulp Fiction). Okay, maybe that last one was a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea. Sure, these characters are easily recognizable and identifiable, but it takes some of the fun out of the movie when you can instantly ascertain their motives. The casting for each of these characters was spot on perfect, especially in the case of Richards, who becomes something of a parody of her own image by the end of the film.
There are really only a couple of romantic comedies that have managed to single themselves out as unique and worthwhile to me, and Good Advice is simply not one of them. With a little extra effort on the script, this could have been a really good movie, but the writers took the easy way out.
Good Advice is best used to placate your female significant other when she insists on not renting yet another movie featuring 'splosions, rubber monsters, or karate rampages. At the very least there are a couple of genuinely good laughs, and the female leads are pretty easy on the eyes.
Against my better senses, I'm going to let Good Advice off the hook. Any film that makes fun of "anal performance art" is okay by me.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary by Director Steve Rash
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