American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Alicia Silverstone, she of the blond locks and quick intelligence, was perfectly cast in “Clueless” as a popular girl who tries to pull all the strings, and gets a few of her own own pulled in return. She was such a hit in the film that she formed her own production company while still in her teens, and there were cover stories hailing her as the next ... I dunno ... Winona Ryder? Grace Kelly? She was wonderful in that film, but could she pick another hit? Certainly her agents advised her to take the role of Batgirl in “Batman and Robin,” where she looked unconvincing, uncomfortable and a size larger than the costume. Now she is back in a starring role in “Excess Baggage,” a film she co-produced. She's OK in it, but no better than OK. Benicio Del Toro steals it with his performance as a car thief who becomes an unwilling kidnapper.
Silverstone plays Emily, a rich kid who fakes her own kidnapping in order to attract her father's attention. She locks herself in the trunk of her own car, expecting to be rescued quickly, but her plans go wrong when Del Toro's thief, named Vincent, steals the car. At his chop shop, he is amazed to find her in the trunk, and even more amazed when she refuses to be intimidated.
There's a shade of O. Henry's “The Ransom of Red Chief” here, as the kidnapping victim turns into more trouble than she's worth. Vincent's partner Greg, played by Harry Connick Jr., is possibly smarter and certainly unwilling to get anywhere near a kidnapping, although his situation grows more difficult after they succeed in misplacing $200,000 in mob money.
The architecture of the plot will be familiar. We have Jack Thompson as the wealthy, distant father named Alexander; Christopher Walken as Uncle Ray, Alexander's Mr. Fixit, and handy MacGuffins like the mob money that obviously exist only as tools for the plot.
At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...