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Monday, February 06, 2006

What Were They Smoking?

Duets (2000)

Every once in a while, I like to write a review that looks at a movie that is inexplicably bad (or just plain inexplicable) and ask the all important question "What were they smoking when they made this movie?" Some films are so ridiculous and godawful that you wonder why the crew didn't burn the set down in protest. Today's installment: Duets, Bruce Paltrow's 2000 film about the dramatic world of competitive karaoke.

Now, you might think, "Oh, that's a good idea for a comedy." The only problem is, Duets is not a comedy. It is a wheezing, pathos-laden workhorse of a drama featuring serious actors doing everything they can to look serious. This movie has great people in it: Paul Giamatti, Andre Braugher, Maria Bello and yes, Gwenyth Paltrow and Huey Lewis as a daughter-father singing team. The hackneyed plot oozes over the gifted cast like a rich, heavy sauce. There are so many characters to keep track of that none of them get developed--it's reminiscent of some of Robert Altman's less successful ventures (e.g. H.E.A.L.T.H or Ready to Wear), except without the interesting camera work and thoughtful social commentary.

Duets was directed by Gwenyth's daddy, and he did a terrible job. I shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but the best thing Bruce Paltrow ever directed was "St. Elsewhere." When your best work is a hospital soap featuring Howie Mandel, you have a serious problem.

What I think they were smoking: Hash, and lots of it.


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