Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Edward Burns, Tony Shalhoub, Christian Kane, Stockard Channing | Directed by: Stephen Herek | Produced by: Arnon Milchan, John Davis, Chi-Li Wong, Toby Jaffe, Ken Atchity | Written by: John Scott Shepherd, Dana Stevens | Distributor: 20th Century Fox
What aspects of our lives motivate and determine our decisions? Why does it take something as monumental as the events of 9/11 to have some rearrange their priorities? I am not exactly sure about the answers to those questions, but I do know that Jesus did have a lot to say on the subject of “Life or other matters like that.”
In Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Toward the end of Jesus’ Earthly ministry, He was explaining to the disciples that He was going to die, but will rise again. In Matthew 16:25, Jesus underscored that verse again. In fact, this verse is repeated several times in all four gospels. So where can we find the life changing experience? Jesus answered that question in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one come to the Father except through me.”
Many others have tried to give a summary to the subject of life. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” George Bernard Shaw put it this way “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Martin Luther King, Jr. declared, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Mark Twain felt that “Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: that is the ideal life.”
Lanie Kerrigan (Angelina Jolie) seems to have the ideal life (a sleepy conscience included). She is a spirited blond TV reporter working in the Seattle market. Her life appears to the casual observer as “perfect” (just ask her sister). Ms. Kerrigan has a promising career that includes offers from a network show in New York called “AM USA.” She is engaged to Cal Cooper (Christian Kane), who just happens to play for the Seattle Mariners. Yes, our story drips with all the superficial trappings that people either admire or strive for in life.
Writers John Scott Shepherd and Dana Stevens try to throw in an ex-boyfriend to yield a plausible love triangle (what would Hollywood ever do if they left out that plot point). Cameraman Pete (Edward Burns) enters the scene and creates some romantic aggregation. This includes some not-so-funny sophomoric tricks to embarrass Lanie as she tries to do her job.
Life, however, does not become complicated for our reporter until she interviews a homeless man named Prophet Jack (Tony Shalhoub). Lanie’s interview begins as a friendly fluff piece for the TV station and ends as a life-changing event. Prophet Jack, while spouting off some predictions, tells our heroine that she is going to die next Thursday. This event begins to shape Lanie’s thinking and her well ordered life. Basically her shallow life becomes less shallow, but with some faint resemblance of meaning.
This film, yet another watered-down version of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, fails as a vehicle to deliver an Oscar to Jolie, fails as a romantic-comedy, and certainly fails as a worthy full-price admission ticket pick. Objectionable content includes some uses of the F-word, scenes implying premarital sex, and frequent usage of tobacco and alcohol. If I had the time, it would be interesting to find out who set stakes on this money trail for 20th Century Fox. There are several product endorsements, including Camel cigarettes (after all who needs Joe Camel if young people can watch Jolie light up and drink up?). The other disturbing reality is Jolie’s young fan base. I was amazed at how many pre-teen and teenage girls were in the audience swallowing these phony messages about life.
While it is true that you can change your path and make the outcome of your life different, that change is not the sum of choices, but is rather the extension of what we believe. The truth of the matter is that the best and lasting change of life begins and continues in the person of Jesus Christ. My personal recommendation is to skip this one for full admission price, or perhaps rent it later on. It does offer an example of how the world views life, or something like it.
Editor’s comment: For a similar storyline from a Christian producer, see Christiano Film Group’s “The Appointment” (1991)