Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer One Life To Live

By Susan Ellis

MAY 29, 2000:  Jeez Louise. There's the Barbie doll, stick-thin fashion models, anything to do with empowerment, the working versus the stay-at-home moms debate, Saturday's Commercial Appeal under-the-fold headline "Woman is choice for chief in G'town" (would it read "man," if that were the case?), 75 cents for a man's dollar, Jennifer Lopez's outfits these are the things that challenge women's self-esteem. And now there is a subset who is getting worked over: the pathetic, over-30 woman who hasn't married and had kids. It's the ruling theme of that blasted Ally McBeal, Bridget Jones's Diary, and now Me Myself I.

Woe is the woman over 30 who doesn't have it all, and by all I mean great career, great husband, great kids, great body, and great sex. At least that seems to be Pam's thinking. There she is making her way into a new demographic, and she's all alone.

The Australian import Me Myself I, written and directed by Pip Karmel and starring Rachel Griffiths as Pam, is a light comedy about a woman's needs even if those needs aren't exactly hers but those of a get-married-have-kids society. Not that Pam's doing so bad, if you're keeping score. She's got an interesting job as a reporter for a slick magazine and has won so many awards for her work that she can be so blase as to use her latest as a gum holder. On the other hand, she eats cereal for dinner. Worse, she has answered a personal ad.

Things look so glum for Pam that she turns to stalking, and when that doesn't work out, she decides to mix water and a turned-on hairdryer. Death by appliance is not to be. It takes getting hit by a car. As it turns out, the person driving the car that hits her is herself or rather that Pam who didn't turn down Robert's marriage proposal and now has a house, a husband, three kids, and a dog. As the single Pam gets her bearings from the bump with the car, the married Pam vamooses, leaving the first Pam with all she thought she wanted. Up to her ears with carpool, laundry, and cooking, Pam does find that the grass is greener, only the lawn has some serious bald patches.

Me Myself I starts out kicking ("You don't even like kids," says one of Pam's friends after she announces she's thinking of having one of her own. "What's that got to do with anything?" asks Pam) and then hits a rather humdrum stride as the heroine makes do and even triumphs sometimes at her new life (she can cook!). As the film makes its way to its moral, however, it becomes pinched by its obviousness. Pam should accept herself the way she is, wouldn't you know it? Of course you did.

Road Trip is the best college comedy since Animal House. It's laugh-out-loud funny. It is a joy ride.

The preceding message was brought to you by DreamWorks, a company that has pushed this film with all the goal-oriented intensity of a woman in the last moments of labor. To promote its baby, DreamWorks has sent film critics a Frisbee with a condom, a sperm sample kit, and a set of jumper cables along with some breath mints.

With or without all the promotional gee-gaws, Road Trip is a joy ride if you're willing to be taken.

Road Trip begins on the green lawns of Ithaca University, as Barry (Tom Green) leads a group of potential students and their parents on a tour of the campus. When the group pronounces that he's lame and the school's even lamer, Barry says au contraire and begins a tale to change their minds, a tale of a certain road trip.

Josh (Breckin Meyer) and his girlfriend Tiffany are childhood sweethearts. The only thing that keeps them apart are the 1,600 miles separating him in upstate New York from her in Austin, Texas that, and a videotape of him having sex with another girl. Before you can say oops, said tape is in the mail headed to Austin, and Josh and four friends have hit the road to intercept the package before Tiffany can pop the tape in the VCR.

Making the trip with Josh are E.L. (Seann William Scott), a don't-worry party guy; egghead and chronic ponderer Rubin (Paulo Costanzo); and Kyle (D.J. Qualls), a stringbean, all-ears geek who just so happens to have a car. Barry, the aforementioned tour guide, stays behind to feed Rubin's boa constrictor. Along the way, the foursome blow-up Kyle's car; visit a sperm bank; encounter a Viagra-powered grandpa (with talking dog); interlope at a black fraternity; steal a bus from a school for the blind; and on and on.

Road Trip is sophomoric, but that's what it clearly aims to be. It's an ode of sorts to movies such as Porky's and the like, where breasts are the end-all and a pair of really large leopard-spotted panties is the veritable Everest of hilarity. Thrown in are small scenes of Green in various modes of leading the tour and trying to feed the snake a little white mouse. Green has a creepy intimacy with the camera that's right at home in Road Trip.

Woody Allen's latest, Small Time Crooks, is pure slapstick and feels mighty slapped together. But that's okay; it works just fine.

Allen plays Ray Winkler, an ex-con and current dishwasher, who's got a plan to make some quick cash. His wife Frenchy (Tracey Ullman), a former exotic dancer and glamour devotee, backs Ray on his plan, though with nagging, insulting reservations.

The idea goes something like this: Ray and his partners Tommy (Tony Darrow), Benny (Jon Lovitz), and Denny (Michael Rapaport) rent a vacant pizza parlor and make it into a cookie shop to front the real operation of drilling a tunnel from their place to a nearby bank. The bank job doesn't work out what with water mains and upside down maps and all but the cookie place hits big-time. Ray and his crew do make out like bandits, only franchising is their m.o.

With money no longer a problem, Ray is itching to go down to Florida and do some fishing. Frenchy, however, is having delusions of grandeur. She's ditched her stretch pants for something more sequined and has bought an apartment to lavish in gold paint. Frenchy wants to be a patron of the arts, that much she's gathered from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. And while her money gets her in with those who run the museums and the opera and the ballet and whatever, they have made it clear that she will not be one of them.

To get some class, Frenchy enlists David (Hugh Grant), an art dealer, who sees Frenchy not merely as a commission but as a simpleminded sugar mama just waiting to be wooed away from Ray with the promise of a ritzier life.

In Small Time Crooks, what goes around comes around and then some. The set-up seems unsteady, carrying with it such a barrage of jokes as to leave you feeling badda-binged to weariness. But once the situation expands into the true storyline, the pace relaxes to a pleasant comfort zone. Of particular note is veteran comic Elaine May as Frenchy's cousin, whose sweet-tempered ditziness has genius in it.

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