2000; Rated R; 105 Minutes
John Travolta: Russ Richards
Lisa Kudrow: Crystal
Tim Roth: Gig
Ed O'Neill: Dick
Michael Rapaport: Dale
Daryl Mitchell: Chambers
Bill Pullman: Lakewood
Richard Schiff: Jerry Green
Michael Moore: Walter
Produced by G. Mac Brown, Sean Daniel, Anson Downes,
Nora Ephron, Linda Favila, Jody Hedien, Jonathan D. Krane,
Andrew Lazar, Donald J. Lee Jr. and Steven Spielberg; Directed
by Nora Ephron; Screenwritten by Adam Resnick
by DAVID KEYES
Numbers" is like a TV game show without the consolation
prize; a movie with a strong premise nailed down firmly,
but no decent characters, inspiration, mild humor or even
stable plot structure to top off the package. Is there too
much to expect here first off considering the fact that
John Travolta, the film's star, is just coming off his brief
recession from "Battlefield Earth"? Not really. But low
expectations don't mean we should just throw out even the
most simple standards here, do they?
movie is one of those snowball crime capers, in which every
event that follows a decision builds upon the previous fallacy
with a whole new one. Travolta plays Russ Richards, a Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania weatherman, who lives in one of those residential
neighborhoods where everyone knows everyone else, and local
celebrities are recognized by having breakfast dishes named
after them at restaurants. Richards is as popular as local
celebrities come—every other person who acknowledges his
presence either wants a job or an autograph. But there's
little to celebrate on his behalf, however, as the man's
local business, a Snowmobile dealership, is slumping in
sales because of a lack of snowfall.
of a refusal from the television executive (Ed O'Neill)
to hand out loans, Russ begins having trouble with finances.
He pairs with his good friend Gig (Tim Roth), a local strip
club owner, to formulate plans on screwing the government
out of some spare money. When the scam doesn't go over well,
Russ opts for the next best thing: rigging the lottery.
To do this, assistance from Crystal (Lisa Kudrow), the "lottery
ball girl," and her southern cousin, Walter (Michael Moore),
is needed to pull off the dirty trick. Unfortunately, other
residents in town catch wind of the deed, and soon everyone
wants a share of the winnings.
is a lot like "Waking Ned Devine," only with more noticeable
actors and an even clumsier story. Using formulas to a meticulous
advantage, the script by Adam Resnick is saddled with an
indistinctive tone, shifting from black comedy to human
drama so often that we practically feel like we're watching
two bad movies at once. To start with, the humor just isn't
that inspired or ambitious; it is flashed on screen and
then completely forgotten by the audience, who, at least
in my case, sat on in dead silence for all 105 minutes.
The premise itself at least provokes a certain amount of
intrigue, but good setups don't always lead to great payoffs.
acting is nothing to applaud either, as characters talk,
interact and execute plans with such little intellect or
conviction that, even with the smallest morsel of worthy
humor, few viewers could enjoy. Travolta will probably do
no worse than that would-be space epic disaster from earlier
this year, but in "Lucky Numbers," he's confined to similar
disgrace, playing a character so dumb, so incompetent and
so unlikable that it's odd how the director, Nora Ephron,
even thinks of him as a good guy. Ditto to Lisa Kudrow,
who had reasonable success as a ditzy sister-in-law in "The
Opposite Of Sex," but is basically repeating her "Friends"
persona this time around, only with a more skimpy wardrobe.
Ed O'Neill as one of the two men in Crystal's life (Russ
being the other) seems to forever be trapped in dismal supporting
roles, and Tim Roth, who was also alongside Travolta in
"Pulp Fiction," looks uncomfortable in almost every scene.
The only credible acting here goes to Michael Moore as Crystal's
bizarre relative, who has a few reasonably admirable moments
thrown into the mix to at least keep us from walking out
of the theater in utter shame.
admire Nora Ephron, if mostly for her ability to weave ordinary
characters into quirky narratives that give them something
exciting to do ("When Harry Met Sally..." is such a success
story). This time, she's beating to a totally different
drummer; one who very much pales in comparison to the last.
"Lucky Numbers" is a distraction at best from the oncoming
load of promising holiday films, but one that even fans
of the ensemble cast and the director will have difficulty
David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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