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Trial and Error

Reviewed by: Cheryl Sneeringer

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
106 min.

Starring: Michael Richards, Jeff Daniels, Charlize Theron, Rip Torn, Jessica Steen / Director: Jonathan Lynn / Released by: New Line Cinema

Charlie Tuttle has everything: a Yale Law School education, a new partnership in a prestigious law firm, and an upcoming wedding to the boss’s beautiful daughter. Just days before the wedding, Charlie (Jeff Daniels) is sent to a dusty desert town in Nevada for a ten-minute assignment: seek a continuance in a fraud case against a distant relative of the boss’s wife. The assignment is easy enough, but Charlie’s life is complicated when his best friend Richard (Michael Richards), an out-of-work actor, surprises him in his hotel room with a quick bachelor party. Unfortunately, Charlie wakes up for his court appearance with two black eyes, a hangover, and a painkiller-induced euphoria.

No problem-Richard is an actor who has seen hundreds of court cases in movies and plays, and surely he can pose as Charlie in court long enough to get a simple little continuance. When the continuance is denied, however, Richard must proceed with the case and continue his impersonation of Charlie. At first, Richard confines his statements to Charlie’s written prompts, but soon he can’t resist the temptation to play the role in his own style, with dramatic posturings and confrontational hyperbole. This is where the movie should become funny, but unfortunately, it just doesn't.

There is much to like in “Trial and Error”. Both Charlie and Richard are likable characters. The budding romance between Charlie and a free-spirited waitress (Charlize Theron), is sweet and believable. Overall, the story is pleasant and good-hearted, but it is so predictable that it doesn’t work well as comedy. I smiled a few times during the movie, but I chuckled not at all. In spite of great acting talent, the laughs just weren’t there.

The film is rated PG-13 because of its sexual content, which includes a shot of an open-mouthed inflatable sex doll at the bachelor party, explicit sexual talk in a bar, a scantily-clad woman enticing her fiance' to bed, and one scene of implied premarital sex. In addition there are about five instances of bad language and two uses of our Lord’s name as an expletive. This film would not appeal to children; nor is it appropriate for them.

If you have older teenagers who choose to see this film, you might want to discuss with them the fact that the “little white lie” Richard told in impersonating Charlie was in fact a felony offense, and how the consequences of his lie kept becoming more and more complicated. That is a realistic picture of how sin mushrooms.

Another opportunity for discussion rests with the fraud case itself. The accused con man bilked people by selling them “copper engravings of Abraham Lincoln” for $17.95-and sending them a penny. This is an example of how people can deceive even when they tell part of the truth (as Abraham did when he told Pharaoh that Sarah was his sister).

(Editor’s addition: It is also worth noting that the act of sex between Charlie (the engaged lawyer) and Charlize (the sweet waitress) occurs within only days of their first meeting. The way the script is crafted, sex between this all-but-married man and the waitress he just met “feels” right. Why? As so often happens in Hollywood, sex is supplanted for a relationship. That’s not the way the “Inventor” of sex designed it to be most enjoyed! Christians would agree that Charlie’s betrothal to the boss' daughter is not nearly as good an idea as getting to know and perhaps even marry the new light in his life, Charlize. But “sex” does not equal “relationship.” In fact, the contrary is true. Numerous studies have revealed that couples who live together prior to marriage, or who have sex prior to marriage, are more likely to see their marriage crumble in divorce. Those who save it for the proper time, and the proper person, are more likely to enjoy the long term satisfaction and sizzle of fantastic sex!)

Year of Release—1997

Viewer Comments
We made our decision to go based on a secular review, in the absence of review not yet being done. We are sorry we relied on (the secular review). …From the opening scene, there is a general absence of Christian values, but it climaxes when the young lawyer is drawn to bed with a young waitress that he has known for only a few days.
Dave, age 55