In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_nnkx3ahyot7p3au92dnglf4pkwa

The Congress

"The Congress" is a roll call of the orgiastic pleasures and bountiful comforts that art provides, and, a reminder of what waits for us when…

Thumb_as_above_so_below_xlg

As Above, So Below

It's that rare found-footage film with a strong premise, a memorably eccentric style, and plenty of energy to burn. It's also poorly conceived, and hard…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Hello Again

  |  

I don't know about you, but I think that coming back from the dead should be a really big deal. And by making it into a little deal, the occasion for safe and predictable little laughs, "Hello Again" blows a great comic opportunity.

Meditate for a moment on the possibilities in the modern-day resurrection of the klutzy wife of a social-climbing plastic surgeon. Imagine what the supermarket tabloids would say, not to mention Jim and Tammy Bakker, not to mention the pope, not to mention Johnny Carson. Imagine what a person with a healthy sense of humor could do with a situation like that. Just for openers, you could reveal what happened to Jimmy Hoffa.

There are the makings of a great comedy here, but you will not find more than scattered hints of it in "Hello Again," a movie that fails to pay off on so many opportunities that the whole film feels like an anticlimax. The story stars Shelley Long as the sweet but clumsy wife of Corbin Bernsen, the plastic surgeon. One day she chokes to death and is buried and mourned and then basically forgotten by all but her sister and her son.

The sister (Judith Ivey) runs the local occult bookstore, and in a quaint volume of forgotten lore she discovers a black magical incantation that can raise the dead. There are two catches: The ceremony must be performed exactly one year after the person has died, and the newly resurrected person must find true love within 30 days or die again. By the light of a circle of scented candles, Ivey reads from the old book, and Long materializes out of a vapor and perches on a tombstone.

The first place she visits after her resurrection is her former home, where Bernsen is already remarried to Sela Ward, her oldest friend. By blowing this scene, the director, Frank Perry, gives warning that he is going to blow many more scenes, and he does. The mistake is to go straight for the sit-com dialogue and the funny one-liners, instead of really dealing with the question of how people would respond to the reappearance of a dead person. Perhaps the challenge requires more gallows humor than this movie is prepared to permit.

It's hard to say whether the actors are to blame for the movie's low energy and slow pacing. There are scenes (notably one where Long confronts Bernsen on the roof of his hospital) that are so sloppily constructed that you wonder if they used the wrong takes. There are other scenes, such as the ludicrous final confrontation between Long and her archrival Ward, that Harriett Beecher Stowe would have found lacking in subtlety.

"Hello Again" is only truly alive when Judith Ivey and Austin Pendleton are on the screen. She plays a certified wacko who delivers her incantations with true, abandoned, conviction. He has a smaller role as a billionaire who helps out Long and falls instantly in love with Ivey. It is some kind of symptom of this movie's malaise that when Ivey and Pendleton lock eyes for the first time, it gets a bigger laugh than anything Long and Bernsen say to one another.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Different rules apply

White privilege, lived.

Ferguson, Missouri: Third World America vs. Atlas Shrugged

An FFC looks at the horrible situation in Ferguson, MO and what it says about where we are and where we're going.

Interview: Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse on what Hollywood’s love of blockbusters means for the rest of us

An interview with Harvard Business School professor Anita Elberse, author of “Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, ...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus