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Published: 4/9/2004

Movie review: The Whole Ten Yards *

BY CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Did you know that if you do a Google search on the title "The Whole Ten Yards" and the phrase "excruciating torture device invented by the brothers Warner," if you search them together that is, you will receive exactly zero hits? Hopefully this review will rectify that. The Whole Ten Yards is a sequel to the mid-sized hit from 2000 starring Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, and Amanda Peet, and if you have trouble remembering The Whole Nine Yards, consider yourself merely a creature on this planet, one of billions of multi-celled life forms who have trouble recalling it.

Not that the original was horrible; just forgettable, ordinary, breezy, gone from your head before you could unstick your soles from the multiplex floor. I can deal with breezy. But did you remember, for instance, that Kevin Pollak played the hitman stalking Willis' retired contract killer, Jimmy the Tulip? I suppose you might, but Pollak, to me anyway, is one of those interchangeable light comedy extras. I don't have such fond memories of him the first time to make his return (playing his elderly crime boss father, fresh out of prison) anything but deeply confusing.

And confusion is the least of the trouble. Considering director Howard Deutch's remarkable resume of junk sequels (Grumpier Old Men, The Odd Couple II), it's practically a mandate. He tries frantically to shake a cocktail of laughs and gun fire and recapture some smidgen of screwball magic that the original never had to begin with. This is one of those unwanted follow-ups stretched so thin that the fact most of the original cast (who surely received better offers) returned betrays a horrible secret:

What we have is not a movie. It is a contractual obligation you have the option of paying $9.25 to peruse. Here are some thoughts, jotted down during the screening, in amazement:

7:02 p.m.: Perry bangs head, falls down. He returns as a nervous dentist who moved from Montreal to Los Angeles because he doesn't want to be noticed. His wife is the supermodel-esque Natasha Henstridge, former femme fatale. She will be kidnapped by the older Pollak because Perry's character helped kill the younger Pollak. Aforementioned confusion begins.

7:03 p.m.: Perry bangs head, falls down. Did you know this is the last season for Friends?

7:10 p.m.: Willis pets a chicken, who eats feed from a martini glass. He wears an apron and bunny slippers. He is sleeping with Henstridge's character, I think. This is called a plot twist.

7:15 p.m.: Pollak, as an old Eastern European mob boss, is buried under so many layers of prosthetics he resembles a Peep. There is an argument over the phrase "piece of cake." It lasts approximately 85 seconds.

7:35 p.m.: First laugh is heard. It comes from hallway outside the theater. It lasts approximately 2 seconds, and is followed by the deafening sound of the theater's heating units kicking in.

7:40 p.m.: Willis and Perry must rescue Henstridge. Peet, married to Willis' character, comes along. The performances feel like improvisation by people who don't know how to improvise. The dialogue sounds like haiku. For instance, Pollak says: "I want him dead before breakfast. Before eggs. Scrambled."

7:44 p.m.: Willis holds a gun to Peet's head because she touched his crucifix. Moments earlier, he said if she didn't stop what she was doing he was going to stick his knife right in her face.

7:47 p.m.: Perry bangs head, falls down. Repeat 123 times.

7:54 p.m.: Willis and Perry get drunk in a bar. Perry asks: "Why are we on this big spinning ball we call Earth?" Willis runs headfirst into a pile of glasses. Wakes up naked. Perry bangs head.

8:04 p.m.: Willis instructs Perry to retrieve their captive hitman Strabo (Frank Collison). "Go get Strabo," he says. Perry responds: "I'll go get Strabo." He turns and runs headfirst into a cooking pan, and falls down. Audience shifts uncomfortably in their state-of-the-art seats, designed to provide maximum comfort.

8:15 p.m.: Perry drives by a Los Angeles bus shelter plastered with the movie poster for Looney Tunes: Back in Action. At first it registers as subtle studio self-promotion. Then I remember The Whole Ten Yards was originally scheduled to open at Thanksgiving. Looney Tunes opened in early November. My guess is the scene was shot in late October. I feel like Sherlock Holmes and he just stumbled on a clue leading to a great crime.

8:30 p.m.: Perry says, for the sixth time, "I'm not going anywhere until someone tells me what this is about." His voice has the scary conviction of a disgruntled relative in a Tennessee Williams melodrama. Film ends. I believe an old lady is trampled in the crush to get to the exit.

No one stops to help.



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