Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:28 - Released 4/14/00

The fact that Paul Newman is a "distinguished actor" has led more than one producer to the mistaken assumption that casting him will lend credibility to an otherwise undistinguished film. This is the case with Where The Money Is, an uninspired, barely clever movie written by E. Max Frye and directed by Marek Kanievska, about a rest-home nurse suffering from mid-life crisis who joins a veteran bank robber to perform the most daring heist of the last . . . 20 minutes or so. The film, besides being full of plot holes and lapses of reason, has no chemistry, no power, no energy. I admit Newman still has charm, and it shows occasionally, but director Kanievska relies far too heavily on him to save the film from its own half-baked story line.

Because of a lack of adequate medical facilities at the Oregon prison where he had been incarcerated, bank robbery legend Henry Manning (Newman), having apparently suffered a stroke that has reduced him to a vegetative state, is transferred to the town's rest home. What the authorities don't know, however, but what nursing attendant and ex-prom queen Carol Ann McKay (Linda Fiorentino) soon finds out, is that Henry is faking it. She discovers this by pushing his wheelchair into the harbor. I guess her reasoning is like that old method of discerning the identity of a witch: if he floats, he's guilty; if he drowns, he's innocent. Henry floats. So after he fesses up, Carol convinces him to go in with her on a bank heist, apparently because she's tired of freedom and bored with life on the outside. Assisted by Carol's nervous husband Wayne (Dermot Mulroney), they rob an armored truck with barely noteworthy consequences.

Let's take this point by point. First there's the issue of Henry having "faked" a stroke for two years, slowing his heart rate through some kind of Zen Buddhism, with cockroaches crawling up his nose and attendants stealing his Rolex. Then there's Carol's methods for drawing him out, of which the wheelchair-in-the-drink prank is not the most ridiculous nor the most prosecutable, but merely the last. Then we have Wayne, a law-abiding citizen who, rather than attempting to talk his adventure-starved wife out of the bank robbery plan, simply gets drunk and decides, "I'm in." Then there's the caper itself, which involves so many ridiculous, unexplained phenomena it's impossible to go into them in this limited space.

It is a pity that Newman, who has apparently announced his retirement following one final upcoming film with his wife, Joanne Woodward, is ending his career with such a string of disappointing vehicles. Although he was adequate (not spectacular) in Twilight and Message In A Bottle, and he's certainly the best thing about this film, Where The Money Is is not the most apt location for his legendary charm to be recognized. **½

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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