Whole Nine Yards
With many movies there is a trend to highlight a social problem or cultural aspect while telling the story. While this is fine, one of the first goals of film was to just plain entertain. A film with no message to convey, no deep issues to probe, just a means to forget the world for 90 minutes or so. Whole Nine Yards does well in this later category. It is entertaining. I have always enjoyed darker comedies. Ever since I first saw films like Arsenic and Old Lace, murder has become faire for this unique genre. Whole Nine Yards follows the belabored life of a dentist Oz (Matthew Perry), an American that lives and works in Montreal wife his shrew of a wife (Rosanna Arquette) and his horrible mother in law. He lost everything when her father, his partner, took all the money and killed himself. Now Oz faces a life devoid of any pleasure. When a new neighbor moves in next store, Oz soon discovers that he is the infamous mob hit man and informer Jimmy the Tulip (Bruce Willis). His wife, seeing large quantities of money if Oz turns Jimmy in to the mob he betrayed, sends Oz to Chicago to rat him out. Oz has trouble doing this for two reasons, he fears for his life and he has actually befriended the hit man. While in Chicago Oz falls rapidly in love with Jimmys beautiful wife Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge). Add to this mix a crazy mob boss ((Kevin Pollack), another hit man (Michael Clarke Duncan) and the fact that Ozs dental assistant Jill (Amanda Peet) is actually a hit person wanna be initially hired by Ozs wife to kill him. In all the plot may be a bit complex but that is part of this genre and it is carried off for the most part.
Casting is extremely important in any movie but even more so in a farce such as this. Fortunately, the cast is first rate. Perry revives slapstick to its former glory as he bumbles his way through the film. While some of his emotional scenes with Henstridge seem rather forced and contrived, they are fortunately short and quickly done. Perry seems to have studied the physical humor by watching old reruns of Dick Van Dyke since his performance often appears to pay tribute to this master of physical humor. In sharp contrast to the slapstick of Perry there is the dry as a bone style of Willis. While best known for his roles as an action hero, Willis is breaking out as he gets a bit older to very different roles. His performance here recalls his style of humor that made the old TV classic Moonlighting such a hit. The real breakout star of this black comedy is without a doubt Amanda Peet. She combines sexy, funny and perky to a degree not seen since the hey day of Goldie Hawn. In one seen she distracts the evil hit men by standing naked affording Willis a chance to get the drop on them. Even in a scene as difficult to pull off like this Ms Peet handles the role with grace and humor not often seen. The cast displays a natural chemistry that carries the often-weak script.
The director, Jonathan Lynn is perhaps best know for the Oscar winning comedy, My Cousin Vinnie. As with Vinnie he has the common sense to let the performers have a little leeway in their ad-libs. This gives the audience a much more natural flow of the comedy. Lynn does a very good job of setting up the scenes and framing the action. His full use of the 1.85:1 frame helps convey the casts reactions but also makes this a movie to watch in letterbox rather than wait for cable.
The disc is very well made. The anamorphic video is very clear with excellent color representation. The only real problem was that the sound track was set with far too much gain, often obscuring the dialogue. The sub woofer was over done in several places making this a movie that will shake the room more like an action film than a comedy. The directors commentary is a bit bland in most spots peppered by a few interesting observations about the production. This is a movie to watch with a few friends over on a Friday night. Have a few laughs, eat some pizza and wash it down with a couple of beers. Nothing heavy but definitely it will make for an amusing evening.