Serendipity Movie Review

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Last year John Cusack -- modern Hollywood's most endeari=ngEveryman -- starred in a great guy movie with a romanticcomedy bent that made it the year's best date movie too.

This year's front runner for the same honor is a fate-fue=led,starry-eyed chick flick entitled "Serendipity" -- also starringJohn Cusack, which may help convince otherwise reluctant boyfriends andhusbands to see this sweet, cuddly charmer. They're guaranteed to enjoyit if they give it half a chance.

Cusack plays an ESPN segment director who meets the girlof his dreams (British girl-next-door Kate Beckinsale) in a Christmas shopp=ingshowdown over the last pair of black cashmere gloves at Bloomingdale's.Instantly smitten, they spend the day together, at one point ice skatingin Central Park and playing the getting-to-know-you game of favorites:"Favorite New York moment?" Beckinsale asks. "This one'sclimbing the charts," Cusack grins winningly.

But Beckinsale is a big believer in kismet, so when they'=refrequented by a series of wild coincidences all day long, she decides toleave their potential amour in the hands of destiny. She makes him writehis phone number on a five-dollar bill, then spends it at a newsstand.She in turn puts her digits in a front page of a book she's reading andsells it to a used bookstore. If they're meant to be together, she sayswith a twinkle in her eye, his bill or her book will find its way to theother person.

Cusack isn't satisfied with this prospect at all, so sheoffers one concession -- each of them takes a glove from the pair Cusackfinally won in their battle at Bloomie's -- and one more game: They eachride an elevator at the Waldorf Astoria. If they get off on the same floor,it's meant to be.

By the time Cusack is done searching that hotel floor byfloor, the movie's romantic chemistry has become so irresistible that you'llbe breathless hoping he finds her.

Several years later -- dang it! -- Cusack is engaged toa Manhattan society sweetie (Bridget Moyhahan) but still habitually stoppingin used bookstores. Beckinsale has become a shrink in San Francisco, andwhile she's lost all her faith in fate, she has fallen in love with a NewAge Jazz luminary ("Sex In the City's" John Corbett doing a hilar=iousKenny G. send-up). Both on the verge of marriage, cold feet set in, sendingthem on a desperate last-ditch search for each other.

Director Peter Chisholm ("TheMighty," "Town & Country")has the perfect touch for the frustratingly funny near-misses that drivethe rest of this ambrosial romance. Charging through Manhattan, draggingtheir best friends (comic relief specialists Jeremy Piven and Molly Shannon)along for moral support, Cusack and Beckinsale pet the same dog only ablock apart. She unknowingly bumps into his film crew shooting pick-upfootage at a golf driving range where he did a story the day before --and where an arrant ball from his fianc=E9e's father knocks Shannon on thenoggin.

As it turns out, Shannon and the fianc=E9e are childhoodfriends, which leads to an invitation to Cusack's wedding -- at the Waldorf,no less. Of course Beckinsale doesn't realize who the groom is and Shannonhas never met him.

Meanwhile, Cusack discovers he has the receipt for thegloves -- with Beckinsale's Bloomingdale account number on it. He dashesto the store to accost a salesclerk (Eugene Levy) trying to glean her nameand number. Even if it's out of date, it would be a lead. Behind on hiscommissions, the clerk agrees to help only after Cusack buys a $700 velvetsuit.

The will-they-ever-meet concept behind "Serendipity&=quot;may not be all that original, but this picture isn't a "SleeplessIn Seattle"-style sickeningly saccharine confection. The relentlesslyromantic sweetness here has a refreshing touch of sardonic humor runningthrough it, and its significant-other characters are not clearly incompatib=lecardboard cutouts from central casting. Beckinsale's intended, for example,is an incredibly byronic, unselfish guy who abandons his concert tour tosurprise her in New York (not knowing why she's there) just because hemisses her. And Cusack explains to Piven that his fianc=E9e is like "T=heGodfather Part II" -- just as good as the original, but just not thesame.

As for the leads, Cusack sticks to his appealing, tradema=rkedway of personifying the easy going id of the American male -- which isfine because he's great at it -- and Beckinsale, a versatile actress nowknown best for "PearlHarbor," plays the kind of dreamy, insta=ntlydelightfully darling that put her on the map in British pictures like "ColdComfort Farm" and "ShootingFish."

"Serendipity's" only real downfall is that it'sso focused on closing the circle of cute coincidence that it barrels rightpast an obvious, logical and perfectly romantic ending to conclude fiveminutes later in a way that's serviceable and winsome, but exasperatinglyover-scripted to conform to the formula.

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Comments

Serendipity Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG-13, Friday, October 5, 2001

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