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June 1999

Crime and Punishment: A connery hit, and two misses

Reviews of Edtv, Entrapment, and At First Sight

Edtv** Boob tube Reality TV hits an all-time low in Ron Howard’s EdTV. It seems that cable television’s “reality channel” is struggling with poor ratings. Producer Cynthia Toppings (Ellen DeGeneres) pitches an idea to center programming around one person, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Auditions held in a local bar yield Ed Pekurny (Matthew McConaughey), a 31-year-old video clerk from a dysfunctional family. The first few days of Ed’s broadcast life are uneventful. Network executives are set to pull the plug on the lackluster show until Ed falls for his brother’s girlfriend, Shari (Jenna Elfman) and the ratings skyrocket. As Ed-mania sweeps the country, Ed finds out that being famous is more invasive than glamorous. Following the success of box office smashes The Truman Show and Pleasantville, recent films about the blurred lines between television and real life, director Howard (Ransom, Apollo 13) has delivered a light-hearted but lifeless disappointment. In fairness, a mediocre script hampered Howard’s efforts. Only an impressive cast (including Elizabeth Hurley, Sally Kirkland and Dennis Hopper) saves EdTV from being an utter waste of two hours. While McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (who plays Pekurny’s dimwitted brother) muddle along, DeGeneres provides subtly sarcastic observations and Jenna Elfman lights up the screen in each of her scenes. Martin Landau gets a laugh for every line. All Ed. All the time. Almost worth it. News at eleven. Entrapment*** It’s all a plot Entrapment opens with the dazzling, high-tech theft of a Rembrandt from a New York high-rise by a burglar dangling hundreds of feet in the air. Insurance investigator Gin Baker (Catherine Zeta-Jones) becomes involved in the case when she convinces her boss Hector Cruz (Will Patton), that the culprit is legendary art thief Robert “Mac” MacDougal (Sean Connery). Mac’s heists have cost Gin’s company millions, so Gin eagerly launches a plan to reel him in. Posing as a thief herself, Gin travels to London to lure Mac into a partnership to steal a priceless Chinese mask. The alliance is, of course, an uneasy one, complicated by the distrust of Mac’s silent partner Thibadeaux (Ving Rhames) and the romantic feelings which inevitably develop between the thieves. Traveling to Malaysia, Mac and Gin plan a multi-billion-dollar computer heist, which climaxes in an unexpected ending. The usual suspects handicap Entrapment: a cliché-ridden script and a plot undermined by rewrites and reshoots. This may or may not be director Jon Amiel’s fault, since Connery, who served as one of the producers, allegedly took charge of the film as production wrapped. On the other hand, the film comes with a high-quality gloss, enough twists and turns to dismiss a clumsy plot and — for what it’s worth — is the first movie to treat the Y2K bug intelligently. Entrapment is remarkably free of the gratuitous sex and bloodshed that Hollywood is prone to dispense. It may not steal your heart the way classics such as To Catch a Thief or Charade do, but it’s no crime to enjoy it nonetheless. At first sight* Blind date Loosely based on a true story by Dr. Oliver Sacks (Awakenings), At First Sight follows the trials of Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer), a young man who has been blind since early childhood. Virgil lives in a small, upstate New York community where he works as a masseur at the local health spa. His overprotective sister, Jenny (Kelly McGillis), caters to his every need. Enter Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino), a stressed-out Manhattan architect, with whom, after a couple of sensual massages, Virgil falls in love. Over protests from his sister, Virgil moves to the city with Amy, who investigates whether the blindness is reversible. An optometrist (Bruce Davison) believes he may be able to restore Virgil’s sight and undertakes the necessary surgery. A fairly standard romance, At First Sight wanders aimlessly after Virgil’s operation. As in box office disappointment Patch Adams, part of the problem is that the events in this film are based on a true story, making it difficult to take creative liberties with the storyline. The bigger problem in this film is its failure to engender empathy for Kilmer and Sorvino. One can only imagine the problems director Irwin Winkler had with these two dueling divas. An uninspired McGillis and an underused Nathan Lane as the wisecracking therapist provide little support. At First Sight is uneven, long and lacking in entertainment. And that’s the truth.

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