Angelina Jolie shows off the lighter side of her considerable acting talent in "Life or Something Like It," a re-prioritization comedy about an ambitious, showbiz-shallow, platinum blonde fluff reporter for a Seattle TV news station.
She revels in the savvy superficiality the part calls for (God forbid her hunky baseball star fiancé discover she wears contacts!), yet she reveals in layers a hidden depth and intelligence that her character willfully swallowed after learning to get by on her looks and feigned effervescence. The camera loves exploring Jolie's gorgeous visage for cracks in this vivacious facade, which the actress provides in subtle spades. And in her entertaining love-hate relationship with her smarmy-charmy, laid-back, flannel-clad, 5-o'clock-shadow cameraman (Edward Burns, "15 Minutes"), she delivers bitingly flirtatious rejoinders like a whip-smart dame from a Howard Hawkes movie.
"Ever heard the expression 'a picture's worth a thousand words'?" he snipes, frustrated with her interference while he's composing a shot for one of her reports.
"That's great for people like you, who don't know a thousand words," she zings back with fire in her eyes.
For the better part of an hour, director Stephen Herek ("Rock Star") lets these likable characters drive the plot, which gets rolling when Jolie reports on a homeless street prophet who has an amazing track record of predictions that come true. Played with delightfully off-kilter aplomb by a mangy Tony Shalhoub ("The Man Who Wasn't There"), he tells her, "The Seahawks are going to win, tomorrow morning it's going to hail, and next Thursday you're going to die. I'm sorry."
She laughs it off -- until she's woken up by a hailstorm.
But after spending an amusing, somewhat unconventional few reels watching Jolie squirm at the thought of re-examining her life path -- "But I've worked so hard on this one!" she grouses -- as a possible way to head off disaster, the movie slips into routine romantic comedy platitudes. At the end of Act Two, Herek resorts to a musical montage sequence for a life-embracing day out with Burns. They have French toast for breakfast, play Scrabble in pajamas, go book shopping, go on amusement park rides, take a scenic walk around Puget Sound, eat ice cream and fall into bed -- all to the tune of an innocuously giddy Jewel song.
And it's all downhill from there.
Once Jolie lands the network job she's been dreaming of for years -- one day before she's supposed to meet her fate -- the movie becomes nothing but a string of over-scripted, formulaic, credibility-stretching gimmicks. The inevitable career goals vs. romance dilemma (goodness knows female movie characters can't have both) comes right on schedule, as does the reflecting-on-what-it-all-means voice-over epilogue.
Sadly, Herek tips his hand to where the movie is headed in the opening scene, which shows Jolie on an operating table, thus killing any suspense surrounding how close she might come to her demise.
Essentially a good movie gone bad, "Life or Something Like It" isn't exactly ruined by its falling back on banality. But even with all its early creative energy and the two-wrongs-make-a-right chemistry between Jolie and Burns (whose tarnished, down-to-earth Brooklyn smart-aleck persona is the perfect foil for the film's heroine), this otherwise appealing picture leaves a bad taste in your mouth after it loses its soul to Screenwriting For Dummies conformity.
Run time: 103 mins
In Theaters: Friday 26th April 2002
Box Office USA: $14.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $16.9M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: 20th Century Fox, Regency Enterprises
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 28%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 87
IMDB: 5.8 / 10
Director: Stephen Herek
Starring: Angelina Jolie as Lanie Kerrigan, Edward Burns as Pete, Tony Shalhoub as Jack, Christian Kane as Cal Cooper, Melissa Errico as Andrea, Lisa Thornhill as Gwen, Stockard Channing as Deborah Connors, Gregory Itzin as Dennis, Max Baker as Vin, Christopher Shyer as Mark Laughlin