One Night at McCool's

You can see the effort that went into breaking this comedy out of the formula rut. The script by Stan Seidel, who died of Crohn's disease shortly after shooting wrapped, is a low-rent comic spin on Rashomon, in which the same story is seen from three points of view. One night at a St. Louis bar called McCool's, three guys meet their dream girl. Her name is Jewel — no, she doesn't write poetry — and as Liv Tyler plays her, she is all things to all men. Carl (Paul Reiser), a lawyer, sees her as his sluttiest sex fantasy; Dehling (John Goodman), a cop, sees her as the virtuous replacement for his dead wife; and Randy (Matt Dillon), a bartender, sees her as the simple girl he'd like to move into his house.

It would be fair to say, without giving too much away, that Jewel doesn't fit into any easy categories. You cross this femme fatale at your peril. Tyler, a true beauty, gives the role a valiant try, but her range is too limited to play this amalgam of female perfection. That leaves Reiser, Goodman and Dillon — fine actors all — struggling to fill in the gaps, while director Harald Zwart, a veteran of commercials and music videos, opens an arsenal of stylistic tricks to distract us from the gaping holes in the plot.

No go. The real fun comes in watching Michael Douglas, the film's co-producer, put on a country-star wig and huge fake teeth to play the supporting role of Burmeister, a hit man with a fetish for bingo. Douglas pulls off the trick that the rest of the movie never quite manages: He makes you laugh out loud.

From The Archives Issue 867: April 26, 2001