The Whole Nine Yards

Let's talk about Amanda Peet. OK, I know she's not the star of this bubbleheaded farce about mobsters in the burbs, but I thought you'd like the good news first. Peet — you can see her weekly on the WB sitcom Jack and Jill — comes into her own here as a comic bombshell. She plays another Jill, a dental assistant in suburban Montreal whose likable jerk 0f a boss, Dr. Oseransky (Matthew Perry), is being pursued by a contract killer hired by his wife, Sophie (Rosanna Arquette, using zee outrageous French accent). Oz is petrified when the guy who moves in next door turns out to be Jimmy "the Tulip" Tudeski (Bruce Willis), a Chicago gangster hiding from his enemies as part of the witness-protection program. Jill is thrilled. She's a work slave with the soul of a moll, and the flirtatious Jimmy is quick to give her tips: If you want to get the drop on a hitman, strip off everything but your high heels and your gun. Sound advice. It sure got my attention. Peet will get yours, too, even when she's dressed in more than a smile. She's delectably funny.

The same can't be said of Mitchell Kapner's screenplay, which is front-loaded with derivative plotlines. Willis and Perry have an easy rapport, as Jimmy and Oz form an unlikely friendship — think Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal in Analyze This. But this isn't acting, it's mugging, especially when Jimmy fumes over Oz's attentions to his estranged wife, Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge). The sight gags, a specialty of director Jonathan Lynn (My Cousin Vinny), miss more than they hit. But the one in which Oz bounces off the immovable bulk of mobster Frankie Figs, slyly played by the Green Mile giant, Michael Clarke Duncan, is priceless. Still, the film falls short; only Peet goes the whole nine yards.

From The Archives Issue 836: March 16, 2000