'If Lucy Fell'

*; Rated R

"If Lucy Fell" is built on the conceit that its star is lovable. And who directed it? Why, the star, but, after all, he was working from a script. And who wrote the script? Why he did, too.

The movie has the stench of a vanity product to it, insisting that we take on Eric Schaeffer's word that Eric Schaeffer is a lovable guy. But what I see is a dumpy looking young man with ugly teeth and bad hair who, directing himself in the clinch with Elle Macpherson, gives himself the close-up. Like, I really want to look at Eric Schaeffer with Elle Macpherson hanging around.

The movie is a lame, witless romantic comedy, in which #i kindergarten art teacher and wannabe artist Schaeffer lives in non-sexual but nourishing friendship with psychotherapist Sarah Jessica Parker, both of them lamenting the lack of a serious relationship in their lives. They re-invoke a college pledge to get one by 30 (a month off) or do a triple half-gainer off the Brooklyn Bridge.

Soon enough he's involved with supermodel Jane (Macpherson) who keeps saying things like "Oh, you're so funny" (yeah, right, Eric) while she's involved with spacey Ben Stiller. The dialogue is witless and the situations lame, but Macpherson's radiance occasionally makes it bearable.

Schaeffer got into the game with an equally annoying independent film called "My Life's in Turnaround," which he also wrote, directed and starred in, featuring his vaunted lovability. Someone grown-up should tell him he's not as amusing as he thinks he is and that the rest of us don't have the time to waste on him that he thinks we do.

***; Rated R

"Bottle Rocket" is this week's completely unanticipated pleasure. evidently exists due to the good graces of James L. Brooks who saw a bit of it at Sundance and convinced Columbia to fund the rest.

It's a little chaotic but director Wes Anderson and his young stars Owen C. Wilson (who co-wrote with Anderson), Luke Wilson and Bob Musgrave have a gift for the human comedy. It follows (but never explains) as the three of them, evidently from prosperous families but now almost completely adrift, decide to opt for a life of crime, primarily under the zany insistence of Dignan (Owen). Dignan is a movie treat: Part young Dennis Hopper and part old Beaver Cleaver, he's the suburban youth reimagining himself as Robert De Niro in "Heat" but getting it mixed up with Robert De Niro in "King of Comedy." He's both insistent and idiotic at once.

The movie drifts this way and that, particularly in a second half that finds no particular purpose as the three boys, under the sponsorship of an old gangster (played by James Caan) try to rip off a storage facility. It may be the most mismanaged heist job in movie history. But "Bottle Rocket's" off-handed, anti-professional humor is extremely amusing and its ability to evoke the bittersweet pangs of love and friendship very poignant. (It's at the Timonium.)

'City of Lost Children'

** 1/2 ; Unrated

"The City of Lost Children," which slides into the Charles today in rotation with "Angels & Insects," is an elaborate French art film by the makers of the highly regarded "Delicatessen" of a few years back. Elaborate? This baby makes "Flash Gordon" look like "Flesh Gordon."

American Ron Perlman, of "Beauty and the Beast" fame, stars as One, a circus strongman who is on the track of Krank, an evil scientist who kidnaps children so he may tap into their dreams and make them his own (he can't dream; it says so in the rules: "Evil scientists can't dream.")

The production values are extraordinary. Shot in a kind of sepia, the dark film re-creates a fantasy world that will make some think of Oz, though to me the movie was closer in spirit to the sequences in Disney's "Pinocchio" where the boys are herded off to an island of fun and eventually turned into donkeys.

"City of Lost Children" was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro. Pub Date: 3/08/96

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