28 – The Whole Nine Yards

Matthew Perry plays a dentist who finds that his new next-door neighbor is Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski (Bruce Willis). What to do, what to do. Henpecked by his sexy, meanspirited wife (Rosanna Arquette), Oz (Perry) travels from his Canadian home to Chicago to find out if there’s a finder’s fee for The Tulip, who’s on the lam from some ornery mobsters (led by a ineffectual Kevin Pollak). And it’s there where he runs into Jimmy’s wife (Natasha Henstridge). And you can kind of see where it all goes from here.

Oh sure, they try to make the plot complicated, but if you have the IQ of a gnat (as well as the attnetion span), chances are you’ll be correctly predicting scenes well before they arrive. The plot is essentially contrived to the max, with carbon-copy characters that are buoyed only by the actors’ performances. It’s a comedy, to be sure, but it’s simply not a very good one. This isn’t a non-stop laughter kind of movie – it does have its good lines, but they’re about as frequent as an on-key Rosanne rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Perry is amazingly miscast as Oz the Dentist; he’s bland, unispiring, and practically melts into the background. For a dentist whose first scene has him showing off his dazzling smile, he hardly ever smiles the whole rest of the movie! (And yes, this IS a comedy!). By contrast, Willis effectively underplays his role as the itinerant mobster. Unlike Stallone, Schwarzenegger, et al, Willis is perfectly willing to shed his tough-guy-as-hero image to play other roles. He takes on supporting roles, he takes on self-deprecating roles, and he does it all with style and verve. Willis can even get his point across while hardly raising his voice above a whisper – try THAT, Stallone (see Over the Top)!

Now, if you’re a guy, you’ll be happy to know there are plenty of hot women in here, and one even gets partially naked. And the men all have guns and talk tough – except for Oz, of course. (It’s kind of like Mickey Blue Eyes, except without the effortless wit of Hugh Grant.)

Despite the billing, it’s Willis’ show all the way. He’s not a nice guy – he’s a KILLER! – but despite his foibles, he’s still the man in charge. Perry, on the other hand, is a weenie, but he can’t even play one effectively. I found him to be boring and rather annoying. (Note to Matthew – GET A NEW AGENT! You need to be in ensemble movies; you’re definitely not the leading man type.) So the biggest virtue of this movie is the performance of Willis – if you’re a fan of his work, you’ll enjoy his playful sendup of his own tough-guy characters.

The Whole Nine Yards: 5

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