Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:44 - Released 4/26/02

This film is an example of what you get when you pair a formula writer with a formula director. You get a formula movie. Life Or Something Like It, while not a spectacular film, clearly displays the workmanlike instincts of its creative team, instincts which neither inspire greatness nor fail altogether. Director Stephen Herek (Rock Star) and writer John Scott Shepherd (Joe Somebody), teaming up with the very capable Angelina Jolie, turn out a serviceable romantic comedy which will float at the box office for a few weeks before fading into cinematic oblivion to become a video store shelf warmer.

Jolie plays ambitious and self-absorbed Seattle TV newswoman Lanie Kerigan, a health & fitness nut and control freak whose life as a plain little sister changed when she adopted a platinum blonde hairstyle and began wooing the local news audience with her easy charm. When Lanie discovers she's up for a big network job in New York City, she is ecstatic, but in order to build a better demo tape, she's assigned to work with the slobby and carefree Pete (Edward Burns), with whom she shares a healthy mutual animosity. Their discomfort at this assignment stems partly from the fact that their lifestyles are so different, and partly because they slept together one drunken night way back when. Their first story is about a homeless street psychic named Jack (Tony Shalhoub), who, after predicting hail and an unlikely football win by the Seahawks over visiting Denver, abruptly informs Lanie she's going to die next Thursday. At first Lanie dismisses the comment, but when both the other predictions come true, she begins to worry. With possibly only a week to live, she begins to question her life choices, and wonders, like Ebenezer Scrooge, if changing her current path will alter the outcome.

Jolie is certainly as charming in this role as her character is supposed to be, and as superficial. She begins to show a bit of depth in the scenes where Lanie tries to reconcile with her estranged sister (Lisa Thornhill) and seemingly oblivious father (James Gammon), but her time on screen with Burns is pure Hollywood. Burns, by the same token, is adequately likeable in a role with much less depth than the one he played in Saving Private Ryan. The chemistry between the two is exactly enough to get by, but neither actor is bending over backward to convince. Compared to these two, Shalhoub easily crafts the film's most interesting character; it's just too bad he's hardly ever on the screen. Also present is Stockard Channing as a snooty Barbara Walters type, but her screen time is also severely limited.

Although this film makes a weak attempt to wax philosophical about making meaningful choices and being true to oneself, its creative team is really not up to the task of any such serious discussion. And Jolie; well, she's still trying to find her niche. ***½

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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