**.8 GM
Starring: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, Molly Shannon, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan


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John Cusack can make any film watchable. This isn't some 80s nostalgia thing, either, since I don't recall seeing any of his teen idol pictures "back in the day." He just has a way about him that makes me like his characters, and after playing Rob Gordon in "High Fidelity," I'll watch him in anything - although I still had no desire to pay to see "America's Sweethearts."

Cusack's on again here as Jonathan Trager, a guy who meets Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) by chance while Xmas shopping and the two hit it off immediately due to strange circumstance. They hang out for a day and, to quote rock visionaries Loverboy, they are "lovin' every minute of it," despite the fact that Sara keeps babbling about predestination and how she believes there's a grand plan for everybody (which would have been Rob Gordon's sign to take a few steps back and give her the heave-ho, but not so for Jon Trager). When it comes to exchanging names and numbers, suddenly "fate" starts smacking them around and they lose contact with each other, but only after plotting shenanigans that would help destiny bring them back together, were they truly "meant to be." Seven years later, they're both about to get married, then they start trying to find each other, rather than letting that 'destiny' thing do its thang. Then they find each other when chance, er, "fate" DOES get involved. Then happy happy happens.

It's your standard romantic comedy, really. Both Jonathan and Sara have typical 'best friends' in the forms of Jeremy Piven and Molly Shannon. I'm also a Piven fan, and I'd like that guy to show up more often, even if he's prone to wearing hairplugs or rugs or whatever that is on his head these days. Eugene Levy pops in to add most of the actual comedy to the romantic, and he does a good job of it.

I did have issues with this, though. First off, it doesn't seem to be very well edited. Judging by clips I've seen on television that didn't make it into the film, the actual first meeting between Jonathan and Sara could have been much more fleshed out and smoothly done, but for some reason it was chopped up a bit. There's also the minor question of how Sara managed to get onto an airplane towards the end if she accidentally had Molly Shannon's wallet and, presumably, her ID as well. The film as a whole just seemed to be a bit uneven.

However, what bothered me more are the things that could have set this film apart from your average sap festival that didn't materialize. First of all, it's the lame lip service paid to cynicism. There are some discussions about whether anyone should believe in fate and why it's horsepuckey, but anyone who doesn't believe in it sees one odd thing happen and they're magically delicious and converted. Yeah, yeah, I know this is a premise we have to buy into to believe anything that happens here, but still, a stronger base in realism could have made it more effective.

The same complaint goes for the fact that the respective fiancees of our heroes have their lives shattered off-camera. I was waiting to see how this was dealt with in a happy love story, since breaking up with people who don't deserve to be hurt is some of the most heart-wrenching, awful shit to have to go through and it would have changed the complexion of the story. But nope, the protagonists can't appear to be anything remotely resembling jerks at any time lest you stop giving a damn about them, so dumping unsuspecting partners can't be shown. Honestly, though, as soon as John Corbett shows up as Sara's fiancee, I wanted him to get dumped as soon as possible and as harshly as possible. Bridget Moynahan's character, however, is just innocently believing she's in true magic love, and breaking up with her must have been hell, especially on her wedding day. Sure would have been interesting to see THAT scene.

Alas, it wasn't going for interesting. It was going for cute, and that was achieved. Thankfully, Cusack and Piven are there to lend a watchability and charisma to the events, and Beckinsale and Levy are engaging enough to make it possible to enjoy the stretching of believability. Until the credits roll, of course, which is followed inevitably by a sigh and saying "Well, that bullshit never happens."

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