Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Daniel Radcliffe     Paul Dano     Mary Elizabeth Winstead

          Swiss Army Man:  a truly bizarre film made up of idiosyncratic fantasies many of which, even so, seem familiar.  Opening the story is Hank (Dano) on a deserted beach trying to hang himself, when he looks up to see a body washed up from the sea.  He almost strangles himself getting down to see about the man (which is actually a preview of his woeful survival skills in general) and is horrified to find the young man (Radcliffe) is already dead. 
          Hank drags the body up to his campsite, sheltering in a cave when it rains and mulling over what he should do.  As time passes and his sense of isolation deepens, he starts talking to the body, voicing many of his fears and anxieties, hopes and dreams.  You’d think he was in a therapist’s office.  Perhaps, just like in a therapist’s office when the patient projects his fantasies onto the therapist, which become a reality of their own, what we see may be Hank’s fantasies or some kind of magical phenomenon wherein the dead regain life; because at one point, the body stirs, convulses, and finally, apparently, talks.  (I say perhaps, because it’s not necessarily clear what the writers/directors—Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert—have in mind—simply psychological projections or some kind of magical phenomenon where the dead regain life.  I’m thinking the former.)
        At any rate, Manny—we learn his name when he talks—becomes a “tool” (hence, Swiss Army Man?) for Hank to use either to overcome his weaknesses and/or lead him back to life and civilization. But more concretely, he uses Manny's stiff body as a tool as well.
         The conversations between Hank and Manny deal with fundamental, practical things like riding a bus, emotional expressions, and how to get girls, but at times they take on a more philosophical/psychological tone when the two discuss sex, death, social conformity and acceptability, and the meaning of life.  This was much more interesting to me than the boyish humor about farts, which went on far too long in the beginning.
          Probably the most delightful sequence is in the middle of the film when Hank “dresses up” in found items on the beach and constructs vehicles, etc., out of them.  Then the two do roleplay that evinces the social life that Hank always dreamed of having but could never achieve.  Much of the success of these scenes certainly belong to the actors, but production design (Jason Kisvarday), art direction (David Duarte) and set decoration (Kelsi Ephraim) should be credited as well.  Their imaginative creations are so delightful I was glad they appeared again at the very end of the film.
          The music by Andy Hull and Robert McDowell is just as incredible.  It is lyrical and perfectly apt for what is going on in every scene.  Much of the score is without instruments; instead, Hull and McDowell used their voices in creating all kinds of sounds and making it seem like the songs are coming from the characters.

       Swiss Army Man is not for everyone; it includes standard jokes that typically evoke laughs and focuses on things most people consider gross.  However, it is more than that in its portrayal of people who don’t really fit in, are highly creative, and are often rejected by society.  (Hank has obviously been brought up to hold in higher esteem what is socially expected over creativity and joie de vivre.)  These are serious points that shouldn’t be ignored.
     Like Judd Apatow and sex, the writers/directors “Daniels” have a penchant for highlighting as many of the, typically considered gross, bodily functions as they can; e.g., farting (of course), defecation, and vomiting.  And they pull in masturbation and sex in general as well.  But they are fine artists who have points to make about human psychology and social constrictions.  My wish is that reviewers would focus more on the latter than the former. 

Go beyond the farts, and appreciate the art and social commentary of this film.

Grade:  A                        By Donna R. Copeland


Mark Rylance   Ruby Barnhill   Penelope Wilton         Voices of:  Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement

          The BFG seemed to capture children’s interest and attention in the screening I attended, and there was applause at the end.  Noises I heard from kids during the film seemed more like they were engaged and involved rather than restless, despite the almost-2-hour production.  I got the impression they were following the BFG’s malapropisms as well or better than the adults.
         The story by the beloved author Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox) and made into a screenplay by Melissa Mathison (ET), tells about an orphan named Sophie (Barnhill) who spies a giant outside her window late at night, and because he is concerned that she will tell others about him, he snatches her.  It turns out that he is a dream catcher who plants dreams into those who are fast asleep—good dreams mostly, but, if needed, bad dreams.  Unfortunately, he lives in the Land of Giants, many of whom are much bigger than he, and they bully him.  The well socialized Sophie, who comes to like and respect the BFG, is then incensed by the oafish giants and devises a plan whereby the Queen of England would rally her forces to capture the giants who are known to see children as delectable treats.
      The idea of capturing and planting dreams is appealing, and is one of the highlights/mainstays of the film.  The current technology shows vivid images of dreams, BFG’s “factory” for creating/mixing  dreams that can be infused into a sleeper’s brain, and the noble uses for dream infusion.  I applaud introducing the concept to children with the thought that it could be a very useful fantasy for them to use in making choices in their lives.
Director Steven Spielberg has sustained his child-like wonder in making films meant to inspire young people of all ages and offer them stories for their moral and ethical development.  His engagement of John Williams for music, Janusz Kaminski for cinematography and Rick Carter for production design are creatively wise choices. 
           In this production, I was mesmerized by Mark Rylance’s portrayal of the BFG.  We now know from his performances in Bridge of Spies, Wolf Hall, and other productions that he is a consummate actor who conveys innumerable expressions with his face and voice.  In this, it was delightful to see that in CGI and motion capture we could still see Rylance, especially in his pixie-like face, his eyes, and smile.  His range is noticeable from the spy character he portrays in Bridge of Spies to here in the BFG.  Those two characters couldn’t be further apart.  And it’s a little bit strange how his goodness shines through so well, we are prepared to root for him as a German spy.
       Strangely, Ruby Barnhill as Sophie did not carry the same weight, even though currently, child actors tend to be phenomenal.  Somehow, the actress does not elicit much fascination with the Sophie character, or maybe it’s simply the script.  I think that part of the problem is that the character Sophie is a bit obnoxious in her behavior and attitude (which may come from Dahl’s story), so it may not be a casting issue, but has to do with the story itself.

I think most children will enjoy and benefit from this fanciful tale.

Grade:  B+                        By Donna R. Copeland

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Ewan McGregor   Damian Lewis   Stellan Skarsgärd   Anomie Harris   Mark Gatiss   Jeremy Northam

          This is a thriller with all the assets of a John le Carré novel—complexity, ambiguity, sharp sleuthing, and heroism—Our Kind of Traitor will keep you on the edge of your seat and make you want to take breaks to relieve the gripping tension.  It begins mysteriously in Moscow at the Bolshoi Ballet (featuring former Houston Ballet dancer, Carlos Acosta), cutting away from time to time to elsewhere where a sober man is seen signing papers under the watchful eyes of a team of sinister men, then he and his friend rejoin their wives and head home.  However, they will never make it.
           The setting then switches to Marrakesh in Morocco where Perry (McGregor) and his wife Gail (Harris) are on holiday, when by chance Perry meets a gregarious Russian named Dima (Skarsgärd) who takes him to a wild party with fellow Russians.  Dima seems to be taken with Perry, and invites him to play tennis the next day at his club where they meet each other’s wives, and Perry meets Dima’s children, an older girl and younger twins.  Unbeknownst to him, Perry is in deeper than he would ever imagine.  He is a fairly typical young English professor of poetics, far removed from Dima’s circles in the Russian mafia.
        The plot involves the British intelligence service when Dima’s underlying motive for friendship with Perry emerges:  Fearing for his life, knowing he is the target of the Russian boss’s threat, Dima wants to defect with his family to London in exchange for giving MI6 incriminating information about high level officials in the British government.  Hector (Lewis), an MI6 agent, is willing to run with it, but his superior sees it as “You have no proof”, and more as a personal vendetta on Hector’s part to go after his rival Aubrey (Northam), another agent, so advises against it.
          The director of the film, Susanna White, keeps the action of the story at a pace similar to one’s sense in reading a le Carré novel—fast and steady with spikes of intrigue and fear.  The fine casting of McGregor, Lewis, Skarsgärd, and Northam in the principal roles contribute much to its quality, complemented by the engaging music of Marcelo Zarvos and intelligent and beautiful cinematography of Anthony Dod Mantle.  I like the way the Perry character is shown at first to be kind of wimpy and easily led on, but as the story proceeds and he gets more and more attached to the fatherly Dima, he transitions into something resembling heroic.  Despite his being a mafia figure, we’re made to admire Dima’s hutzpa, likeableness, devotion to family, and strength in combat, beautifully evinced by the talented Skarsgärd.  Lewis is at home playing a shrewd agent with a moral compass that compels him to seek justice for corrupt individuals.  Naomie Harris as Perry’s girlfriend/wife and a lawyer is valuable as a support and advisor.
         In the past I have not been a Le Carré fan—I find his plots very dense, tedious, and sometimes hard to follow (except for the TV adaptation of The Night Manager, which I loved), but Hossein Amini’s screenplay maps the plot very clearly while maintaining ambiguity and excitement.  I liked it as much as I did The Night Manager.

Another John Le Carré thriller.

Grade:  A                                    By Donna R. Copeland

Friday, June 24, 2016


Elle Fanning   Keanu Reeves   Christina Hendricks

          For the most part, this movie isn’t just slow; it’s interminable, at least for the first hour.  And then the rest of it is violence for violence sake.  It’s high porn masquerading as art.  Perhaps writer/director Nicholas Winding Refn is making a statement about the cutthroat business of high fashion, but it really does remind me of pornography with its long, slow camera pans across bodies, husky seductive voices, Lesbian love and girl fights, all with clichés for dialog.  Dialog example:  “Ruby……….Ruby……….Ruby……….thank you.”
          The subject is about a young girl named Jesse (Fanning)--without parents, of course—who has aspirations for modeling.  She lives in a seedy hotel with Psycho vibes (Keanu Reeves has the role of creepy owner), and we’re supposed to see that the modeling agency photographer likes ‘em better the younger they are.  Jesse has been told to lie and say she is 19; she is much younger.  The make-up girl Ruby (Malone) takes her under her wing saying she’ll “protect” her, and introduces Jesse to her two snipe-y girlfriends.  As expected, the story devolves into the stereotypical portrayal of jealous, conniving, vindictive females who will stop at nothing to achieve their aims and are unforgiving when they’re thwarted.  One envious character muses,  “Who’s she fucking?  How high can she get, and is it higher than me?”
        There are sadistic themes, with characters exploiting those who don’t stand up for themselves or are perceived by others as being weak or are incapacitated so can’t defend themselves.  Scenes often involve two characters, one controlling, the other, submissive.  Although Jesse comes across initially as very naïve, submissive and in need of a protector, she has flashes of strength that seem out of character, such as when she shoves another person out of bed.  But mostly, she acquiesces to whatever is requested of her.  She reasons, “I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I can’t write, but I’m pretty.  I can make money off of pretty.”
         Refn did have two female co-writers (Mary Laws and Polly Stenham) whom he says contributed significantly to the script, but the point of view is so predominantly masculine I didn’t recognize any substantive feminine influences.  I exclude the music (Cliff Martinez), cinematography (Natasha Braier), and costume design (Erin Banach) from this observation, all of which are gorgeous, and stand in contradiction to the script in artistic quality.  One caveat is a scene in which beautiful, artistic shots are interspersed during an attempted rape scene.  I found this offensive, but presume it was composed in the editing process.
         This film is a mass of contradictions, which likely accounts for the divergent ratings of it (e.g., current Rotten Tomatoes score, 50%; and booing with clapping at its premier in Cannes).  My conclusion is that the music, cinematography, costume and production design warrant an ‘A’, whereas the dramatic conception, script, and editing deserve an ‘F’.  I guess I’ll go for an average, not in the sense of being so-so but because of the gap between some aspects of the film and others.

Inform yourself about this film before going to see it.

Grade:  C-                                    By Donna R. Copeland

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Matthew McConaughey     Gugu Mbatha-Raw     Keri Russell     Mahershala Ali     Bill Tangradi     Christopher Berry     Sean Bridgers

           How to give an account of a major struggle that goes on for years, makes only inches of progress with setbacks, and contains dozens of stories?  The filmmakers of Free State of Jones have attempted just that, but needed more judicious editing for the sake of coherence and a bit of brevity.  At 139 minutes, it is too long, especially considering the weight of the material.  The story jumps back and forth between what is going on in Missouri during and just after the war and 85 years later when the son of two of the characters seems still to be fighting against racism.  If writer/director Gary Ross wanted to make a point about the length of the struggle, maybe that is his rationale for including this segment of the film, but it is so far removed from the core of the story it becomes too much to absorb.
         That being said, Free State of Jones is educational and even inspirational in showing how people in the South coped with the ending of the Civil War and the departure of the Union troops.  It’s also very painful to watch as the cruelty continued toward people of color, and the Confederates deflected their anger toward the Union upon them.  This is based on the true story of Newton Knight (McConaughey), a white man who valued freedom and equality for everyone, and how he got caught up in the cause, even when his wife (Russell) protested that he seemed more intent on protecting others when she and her son were having to endure repeated raids on their farm. 
         Newton is serving as a nurse in the Confederate Army when a young relative suddenly appears, asking for his help.  (Even at his young age, he has been conscripted into the Army, which is also plundering local farms for supplies.  They are supposed to be taking 10% from each private household, but often take everything.)  Newton is trying to get the child out of harm’s way when a bullet kills him, and Newton feels honor-bound to get his body back to his mother.  Now, Newton is a deserter, and has his picture on “Wanted” posters.
         Much of the rest of the story involves Newton hiding out in the swamp, being helped by runaway slaves, and eventually taking up their cause—which coincides with his own wish for freedom and justice for all.  It’s rewarding to see the cleverness Newton brings to the cause—he’s a natural born leader—and how talented he is at exploiting the weaknesses of the enemy and using his and his team’s strengths. 
        McConaughey has become a quintessential actor of excellence, and this is a role made for him in its combination of heroics and modesty.  Mbatha-Raw, as slave and healer Rachel, joins him in the rebellion, showing a fine balance between the refinement she has learned in a plantation house, subjugation, and resistance. 
       This film will be favored more by those who have an interest in history and can appreciate the complexities in relationships that it depicts.  And in that vein, those viewers will see how relevant it is today in speaking to our own conundrums regarding race, politics, marriage, and equality.

Think of this film as a history lesson and go see it!  (Like a history class, you won’t enjoy all of it, but you’ll appreciate its truths.)

Grade:  B                        By Donna R. Copeland

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Liam Hemsworth     Woody Harrelson     Alice Braga     Emory Cohen

          A quick look online shows that the duel is a popular topic for moviemakers, and has been brought to the forefront again in the Broadway musical Hamilton, (about Alexander Hamilton who died in a duel).  This rendition is a western, and could be classified as a tragedy in the literary sense.  It takes place in the 1800’s, opening with a duel in Texas and ending in the same town with a duel involving the son of the man killed 22 years before.
David Kingston (Hemsworth) is a Texas Ranger sent by the governor to investigate an area where Mexican General Calderone says his niece and nephew disappeared.  As a matter of fact, there have been many reports of Mexicans who have gone missing from the same area.  For his safety, David is sent incognito with the story that he is headed somewhere else.  We can see a complication right away when his wife Marisol (Braga) insists on going with him.  She is obviously Mexican, so going to a town that is suspected of killing Mexicans seems more than foolhardy, but she threatens to leave him otherwise, so he takes her along.
       They are greeted in the town of Helena by a polite, smooth talking Abraham (Harrelson), known as “The Preacher”, who keeps a tight rein on the townsfolk.  He gets them settled in a lodging, makes an impromptu visit to Marisol, and makes David sheriff.  David quietly does his sleuthing and of course—since this is a western—must prove his mettle with the locals, particularly Abraham’s ne’er-do-well son Isaac (Cohen).
           What David uncovers is major, and all the while he is investigating he has to contend with the passive-aggressive Abraham who creates a continual thread of ominous portents, aided by the open hostility of Isaac and his two sidekicks.
        Director Kieran Darcy-Smith is successful in sustaining the aura of mystery and danger, and gives the viewer some explanation as to how the characters fit together.  But he and the writer Matt Cook are not the most experienced in filmmaking, which shows up in questions about plot that remain unresolved.  For instance, Marisol becomes mysteriously ill soon after The Preacher predicts her fever.  After the ambiguous ending, we still don’t know exactly what happened or how she fits in with the characters other than David.  On one occasion, she seems to complain about it.  Another instance is David’s leaving his sick wife’s bedside and being out of town for an extended period of time without Abraham, who seemed to monitor him constantly, noticing. 
         Finally, at the end it’s not clear why the governor took no action on Kingston’s findings.  We never see David send a telegraph (which he was instructed to do), and when General Calderon asks for the governor’s support in investigating the site further, it was declined.  Maybe he didn’t want to start another Mexican-American war.
          Woody Harrelson knows creepy, and his performance is superior in this role.  He is electric in any scene he is in.  Hemsworth is very good, although not quite convincing as a Texas Ranger.  I was stunned to discover that Isaac is played by the same Emory Cohen who is such a hit as Eilis’ sweet American boyfriend in Brooklyn.  He is as offensive here in his character as he is appealing in Brooklyn.

This is a western that raises as many questions about the plot as it answers.

Grade:  C-                        By Donna R. Copeland

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Voices of:  Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O'Neill, Kaitlin Olson, 
Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy

          Disney’s Pixar again delivers a colorful, sharply animated fantasy for children.  Dory (Degeneres), the blue fish has short-term memory loss, and frequently loses her way, despite the best efforts of her parents to teach her strategies she can use to find her way home.  Unfortunately, soon after the story begins, she gets lost after an impulsive action, and much of the film involves her trying to get back to her parents with the help of her friends, new and old.  Two of the old friends are Nemo (Rolence) and his dad Marlin (Brooks). 
          It’s something of a coming-of-age story for a fish, but valuable lessons can be learned in the process of growing up, even by a fish.  We see Dory gradually developing self-confidence, a better attention span, persistence in the face of obstacles (“There’s always a way…”), and a growing sense of responsibility for others.  There are humorous moments for adults when we see Nemo trying to coach his dad on behavioral techniques like positive reinforcement when Marlin has a tendency to discourage kids.  And all ages will chuckle at Hank (O’Neill) the octopus (or “septapus”, after he lost a tentacle) contorting his body elastically in every possible position or getting splayed against a wall accidentally.  I understand he is likely to become a beloved figure for children.
          Then there are funny sequences with the sea lions (Elba and West) commandeering a rock on which they can lazily sun, observing and commenting on the goings-on around them.  They occasionally render advice and instructions, while keeping an intruder off the rock they are unwilling to share.
        Another humorous aspect of the story are occasional announcements by Sigourney Weaver at the Marine rescue facility where part of the story takes place.  As the director of the facility, she instructs visitors about where to go and what the aims of the facility are:  Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Release.  There are terrifying moments when Dory lands in a bucket of dead fish and some marine animals are sent against their will to Cleveland to be in an aquarium if it’s thought they can’t make it in the open sea.
       In the larger scheme of things, Finding Dory models the values of family, loyalty, friendship, openness to new experiences, and willingness to take risks.  It’s not preachy in the least, and the lessons are to be deduced from the actions of the characters.  My only objection to it is the hair-raising truck ride driven by Hank and Dory at the end.  This is intended to be funny, but to me it’s simply bad modeling for children.

Adventures that help Dory manage a disability and grow up.

Grade:  B+                       By Donna R. Copeland


Colin Firth   Jude Law   Nicole Kidman   Guy Pearce   Laura Linney   Dominic West

          Genius is a most eloquent account of the human cost of vast creativity in one person.  Often, few people can appreciate it when they encounter it, and it always seems to be a curse for those who try to live with a genius.  The black and white film begins appropriately with dense foreboding—It’s a dark, rainy day, with a man standing without an umbrella, smoking cigarette after cigarette, and gazing up at a brick building and its sign, Charles Scribner’s Sons.  The camera focuses again and again on the man’s shoes stamping out his cigarette butts while pedestrians hurry by under the protection of their umbrellas, completely oblivious to him.  Behind the one light visible in the building sits Max Perkins (Firth) tirelessly editing manuscripts written by the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, and now as well, Wolfe’s manuscript, O Lost (subsequently changed to Look Homeward, Angel), a fictionalized account of his childhood.
         Presently, Thomas Wolfe (Law) appears at Perkins’ door, and we can tell it took a lot of nerve for him to approach.  He opens with the statement about not usually liking to get bad news face to face, so he seldom asks in person.  But now he inquires nervously, “Have you read my manuscript?” certain that it will be rejected as it has already been turned down by numerous publishers.  When Tom is given an encouraging answer, he spews out his gratefulness effusively, and swears he is willing to honor the editor’s precondition to work tirelessly to make it publishable.  Little does either of them realize the amount of effort it will take.
         It turns out that the two men will be completely in sync in their commitment to the project (willing to sacrifice time and family), a developing father-son relationship filling the thwarted needs of both, and their views of literature.  This is despite the sharp contrast in their personalities.  Max is often eloquently silent to Tom’s verbosity. Perkins is 1920’s conventional, proper, faithful, and disciplined.  Wolfe, in his own words, never knows when to stop, is always pushing against boundaries, and is wide open to all the experiences in life he can grasp.  All this is captured perfectly by two versions of the 19th Century song, “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton”, which Perkins has said is his favorite.  He and Tom are in a jazz bar, and Tom gets the band to play it first in the old version to satisfy Max and then again in his own preferred jazzed-up version of it. 
          The film Genius (screenwriter John Logan) is based on the book by A. Scott Berg entitled Max Perkins:  Editor of Genius about the fascinating relationship between the aspiring novelist Thomas Wolfe and his first editor, Max Perkins.  The movie is a tour de force in its direction (Michael Grandage), its music (Adam Cork), cinematography (Ben Davis), and acting.  Suppressing his British persona, Colin Firth gets across the dignified New England stoicism and Puritan values of Max Perkins.  Jude Law’s portrayal of the outrageous, self-entitled writer is sometimes obnoxious, but always entertaining, even in his darkest musings.  Nicole Kidman, Guy Pearce, and Laura Linney round out the stellar cast.  Although someone might object to the dominance of British/Australian filmmakers, I think they are successful in their efforts to capture the American spirit of the times.
          A most interesting sidelight is how Genius makes references to how women were regarded in the 1920’s.  Max casts a dim view of his wife’s playwriting and acting aspirations.  He and Tom talk over her when she tries to turn the conversation to her own work; they’re not interested and don’t consider it important.  Tom has no appreciation for his lover’s passion as a Theater set and costume designer, even after she has been continuously supportive of and made huge sacrifices for his work.  This will go largely unnoticed, even by today’s generation.

A tour de force in its account of the life of a genius and of those who are close to him.

Grade:  A                        By Donna R. Copeland

Thursday, June 9, 2016


Nick Jonas     Isabel Lucas     Dermot Mulroney     Kandyse McClure     Paul Sorvino

          Experience in television does not necessarily lead toward quality film production, and Careful What You Wish For illustrates that point.  Director Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum and writer Chris Frisina have not escaped their roots in this production, which results in a mostly predictable story worthy of the small screen.  Young hunk Doug (Jonas) meets gorgeous, married next-door neighbor cum femme fatale Isabel (Lucas) and ends up being a suspect in a murder.
          The main actors are all caricatures of movie lore:  the naïve young man taken in by the poor helpless blonde beset upon by a mean husband, and a small-town sheriff who really knows more than the “outsider” insurance adjustor.  It’s not long before we figure out how the story will unfold.   Immediately we’re set up to hate Elliot (Mulroney), Isabel’s husband, in his hubris, low moral standards, and pure obnoxiousness.  Then we have the “purity” of young Doug trying to rescue the abused Isabel from her oafish husband.  We get to spend delicious moments riding on the torrid affair between two luscious bodies (notice, I said ‘bodies’; not persons) in thrall, knowing that the sword of Damocles will soon drop.  It drops in the death of a major character and an expected murder investigation. 
        The actors Jonas, Lucas, Mulroney, and Sorvino live up to their reputations as fine actors; it’s just too bad the script doesn’t come in with imaginative twists to make this a new or moving film experience.  The ending is meant to thrill, but since there was nothing to set it up, it was just another illogical twist.  I also had a problem with everyone ignoring Doug’s mother, an attorney who had good advice for her son, just as if she didn’t matter.

Careful what you choose to watch.

Grade:  D                 By Donna R. Copeland


Luis Guzman   Edgar Garcia   Rosario Dawson   Rosie Perez   Ravi Patel   Alice Taglioni

      A valuable designer bag is missing in Paris, and the designer Colette (Taglioni) and company representative come to New York to recruit two police detectives to find the thief.  Right away the script is suspect in even considering that a) Parisians would come to this country to get two gumshoes to find a designer bag, and b) that they would hire two overweight middle-aged detectives to do the job.  Actually, I think this is one of the things supposed to be funny in the film, but I didn’t hear any chuckles.
       Luis (Guzman) and Eddie (Garcia) are competitive brothers-in-law who work as a team.  Eddie is a bit brighter than his partner, and devoted to Luis’ sister Gloria (Perez) and their children.  Luis is with Vanessa (Dawson), but apprehensive about committing to her, and she promptly leaves him.  Once again, the viewer is scratching her head wondering how such an obnoxious socially inept old guy is able to get such a hottie to care about him.  But that is the script; it attributes implausible characteristics (attractiveness, detective skills) to these two buffoons.  And they’re supposed to be buffoons; that’s what the script calls for.
         Luis and Eddie make it to Paris and begin working on the case; they already have four suspects to interview.  Using their amazing detective skills, they feel sure they’ve come up with the culprit.  Meanwhile, they sample the nightlife, finding Colette a generous hostess and friend, and Luis continues to make inappropriate solicitations to pretty young women.  (His jealousy of Eddie for seeming to score with Colette makes him livid.) 
        But of course the script leads us along the garden path, and there will be twists and turns in the plot to keep us engaged until we find out who the actual culprit is (which will not be surprising to many). 
         The most positive part of this film is the time in Paris filled with creative living, beautiful sights and sounds, and European sensibilities.  The character of Collette embodies the cool, warm, generous, but very bright French woman whom we can admire—no matter the nationality.  She is the strongest part of Puerto Ricans in Paris.  It’s she you are most interested in and watch as she charms, expresses substantive social values, and is truly fun—the best of a chameleon. 
       I only wish Luis and Eddie were more her American counterparts; but they seem to show every trait opposite to that. I should make an exception for Eddie who ends up behaving as a genuine friend, canny investigator, and devoted family man.

Mildly entertaining (because of Paris), but not really a comedy.

Grade:  D+                        By Donna R. Copeland