Television actors who attempt to branch out into feature films are frequently dismissed as tackling material that is out of their element, a criticism that isn't applicable to the stars of "Three to Tango."
If anything, Matthew Perry, Neve Campbell and Dylan McDermott, familiar young faces on the small screen, are cheated by the new film, which basically requires them to ape their television personas.
Perry, the witty guy from "Friends," Campbell, the headstrong young woman from "Party of Five," and McDermott, the driven attorney from "The Practice," are called upon to be witty, headstrong and driven, respectively.
More a marketing device than an actual movie, "Three to Tango" lurches about, tossing out a supposedly hip line here, a barf scene there, all backed by that big-band music that's all the rage these days.
It's all designed to impress, of course, but so much of "Three to Tango" is calculated to push the proper emotional buttons that it's ultimately unsatisfying.
Perry, sporting a simply dreadful haircut, is Oscar, a lovable loser architect who, along with his partner (a slyly amusing Oliver Platt), is on the verge of getting a career-making project, provided they can get the approval of McDermott's weasel businessman, Charles.
Charles enlists Oscar to spy on his artist-mistress Amy (Campbell), mistakenly believing that Oscar is gay. Of course, everybody in the theater can see that Oscar and Amy belong together, but, in a plot twist right out of "Three's Company," Oscar has to live a lie to keep his job.
The end comes as no surprise and with little imagination, as director Damon Santostefano seems to have no idea how to rise above the cliche-ridden screenplay that not only includes the de rigueur Big Speech about truth and honesty but also the device of having one character stand in a quiet room and roust the crowd to an ovation with one slow clap.
Geez, there's better stuff than this on television every Thursday night.
'Three to Tango'
Starring Matthew Perry, Neve Campbell, Dylan McDermott, Oliver Platt
Directed by Damon Santostefano Released by Warner Bros.
Rated PG-13 (for sexual themes, language)
Running time: 98 minutes
Sun score: **