Return to Me Movie Review

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Let's cut to the chase; the Weekly World News could have given us a better story about a man and a woman united by a heart transplant. It's not for lack of talent, either, that this flick stumbles. If anything, Return to Me hosts almost as overqualified a cast as Brian De Palma's lame duck blockbuster, Mission to Mars. The real problem here seems to be lack of directorial focus. After a career of feature film supporting roles, television walk-ons and cartoon voiceovers, Bonnie Hunt somehow convinced MGM to let her sit in the folding chair. The result is a charming romantic comedy tragically bogged down by the uncomfortable avoidance of its central plot point.

The drama of this film is the elephant in the room that everyone pretends to ignore. Bob Rueland (David Duchovny--The X Files) is a successful Chicago architectural engineer who is emotionally crushed when his gorilla-training wife (a role apparently inspired by real-life Gorilla Foundation president Dr. Penny Patterson), Elizabeth (Joely Richardson--101 Dalmatians), dies in some unspecified accident that we never really see. I guess they thought it might bring us down. Fortunately, Elizabeth filled out her organ donor card, affording local waitress Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver--Good Will Hunting) a second chance to live.

The wacky bonus, of course, is that the uncanny Hand of Fate brings Grace and Bob together. From this point forward, the unrealized drama of Elizabeth's death is completely overshadowed by about ninety minutes of schticky banter in which Archie Bunker, er... Carrol O'Connor, runs through a non-stop routine of Sinatra references and boob-job jokes. And Bob and Grace fall in love.

The romance of this picture is fun and believable. Duchovny and Driver have a chemistry that's heartwarming and funny to watch. This movie would have gone a lot further if they'd either dropped the heart transplant all together or taken it more seriously. It's never really justified anyway and only winds up distracting us from the film's central relationship. Performances from Robert Loggia and Jim Belushi are endearing and enjoyable, and director Bonnie Hunt gives a strong performance as Grace's supportive friend, Megan. David Alan Grier could have made a valuable contribution in his rare dramatic role as Bob's comforting buddy, if the character's relevance hadn't been undercut by the removal of all drama from the film. Whoops!

Driver Returns to fine Italian dining.

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Return to Me Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG, 2000

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