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Case Number 04011

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Overnight Delivery

New Line // 1998 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // March 4th, 2004

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All Rise...

The Charge

They've got 24 hours to stop a package, prevent a disaster, and fall in love.

Opening Statement

Bare asses, explosions, car crashes, strip bars, and serial killers…Overnight Delivery employs all of these time-tested staples of the action movie.

Unfortunately, Overnight Delivery is a romantic comedy.

Facts of the Case

Wyatt Trips (Paul Rudd, The Shape of Things, The Cider House Rules) is deeply in love with his high school girlfriend Kim (Christine Taylor, Zoolander) even though she lives 1000 miles away in Memphis and won't give up the nookie. After a wacky late night phone call, Wyatt becomes convinced that Kim is cheating on him with a loudmouth named "The Rikker." He goes to the local strip bar with his buddies to drown his sorrows. The distraught Romeo winds up getting kicked out of the club, along with comely stripper Ivy Miller (Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde, Sweet Home Alabama). He tells her his tale of woe and Ivy helps him draft a nasty breakup letter. They ship the letter (along with sundry paraphernalia) via Overnight Delivery.

When Wyatt returns to his dorm, there is a message waiting from Kim, explaining that "_______" is actually a _______. Oh, no! Wyatt decides to _______ to stop _______. Inexplicably, he decides to take _______ along with him on the journey.

The Evidence

In one of the "funny" moments in Overnight Delivery, Wyatt's ditzy classmate writes a report on how Melville's Moby Dick was a ripoff of Jaws. (But, like, wasn't Moby Dick written first or something?) This gag contains a level of prophetic irony. Overnight Delivery was unsuccessful by most standards. Yet it had enough originality to inspire the movie Road Trip, which did everything Overnight Delivery tried to do but with success. Now that Road Trip has gained some notoriety and Rudd and Witherspoon have clout, Overnight Delivery gets a straight-to-video release. But if you've seen Road Trip or any other recent romantic comedy, Overnight Delivery becomes even more painful.

If you can't make a reasonable guess at the blanks above, you might find something original in Overnight Delivery. (For the curious, the correct answers are "The Rikker," dog, go to Memphis, the package delivery, Ivy. Bonus points if you guess whom Wyatt falls for at the end.) The plot of this movie is transparent even to the most casual filmgoer. The only mystery is what misadventures will befall the unlikely pair on their way across country. We are bereft of even that small suspense when each scene begins, because the setups are way too obvious. Overnight Delivery feels like nothing more than a series of anticlimaxes wrapped within one large anticlimax.

The sad thing is, I gave this movie every chance to succeed. Reviewing romantic comedies can be dicey as a solo effort; the mood just isn't there when it is you, a notepad, and a bag of pork rinds. So I put my son to bed, had a nice dinner with my wife, turned down the lights, and put on this "romantic" comedy. Ten minutes in, she hit the pause button. "I know exactly how this movie will go. 'The Rikker' is actually a dog. Wyatt will go to Memphis to stop the package delivery. Inexplicably, he will take Ivy along and fall for her." No romance here, folks.

Many romantic comedies have tired plots, but the humor still keeps you entertained. There were many lame attempts at humor in Overnight Delivery, along with several overzealous attempts at humor, followed by some last-ditch madcap antics (such as Wyatt being dragged along on his butt behind the Overnight Delivery truck). I don't recall actually laughing during these hijinks.

Many romantic comedies have tired plots and weak humor, but the leads generate such chemistry that we want to watch them. Both of these actors are fully capable of romantic fireworks. Paul Rudd, in particular, gave an understated and completely winning performance in Clueless. Clueless was funny, touching, and romantic. Furthermore, it was quite similar to Overnight Delivery in many respects. Director Jason Bloom had a blueprint for success right under his nose. Yet Rudd is transformed into a twitchy spaz without a clue. Witherspoon tries hard to make a connection with his character, but she is fighting against the rapids of the script. Had Paul's character been granted the decency given Josh Lucas in Clueless, we'd have a winner here and Road Trip might never have occurred. Witherspoon does an admirable job of holding her end of the film together. It is hard not to feel sorry for Rudd as he tries to salvage his unexplainable buffoon of a character.

The disc itself is presented rather well. The menus are a great fit with the movie. You have a choice between widescreen and fullscreen versions. This approach usually requires a compromise in video quality, but the image is pretty good here because of the short running time. The colors seem a bit desaturated, but the image is crisp and there are few blemishes. It is difficult to grasp the aspect ratio, however. The fullscreen is obviously cropped and should be erased from existence. The widescreen appears to be at about 2:1, which is an unusual ratio. I assume that the matte was opened up to reveal extra information from the top and bottom, but I'm unsure why this decision was made.

Sonically the film is straightforward. The action is anchored to the front stage. Bass kicks in seriously for the explosions, crashes, and occasional pop songs that make apologetic appearances. Dialogue is occasionally mixed improperly, with environmental effects overpowering the words. Both Wyatt and Ivy have moments of unclear speech, even though they are firmly facing the camera and seem to be speaking normally.

There are no extras. Straight-to-video releases often don't have trailers. This is a fringe title and most likely no extra material of note exists. The InterActual crapware does rear its ugly head, however.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Kevin Smith fans may recognize a bit of his spark in some of the exchanges. They might also recognize the gratuitous slapstick elements that add nothing to the story.

Reese Witherspoon has some great moments. She delivers acerbic dialogue with aplomb. At times I wanted to reach through the screen, embrace her, and thank her for making movies.

Closing Statement

If you like your romantic comedies fraught with needless explosions, spastic facial tics, random verbal sparring, and copious clichès, Overnight Delivery is for you. Otherwise, do what my wife and I did: dust off Clueless or some other guilty pleasure and enjoy it instead. If Overnight Delivery happens to be your guilty pleasure, it is proof that the time-honored formula works.

The Verdict

Bio-DomeSoldier of Fortune, Inc.…and now Overnight Delivery. In light of these continued misdeeds, the court finds Jason Bloom guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 88
Audio: 82
Extras: 0
Acting: 60
Story: 45
Judgment: 59

Perp Profile

Studio: New Line
Video Formats:
• 2.00:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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