Bob Jones, played by Michael Keaton, is a Beverly Hills PR hotshot with a problem he can’t finesse: He has cancer and only a few months to live. He also has a wife, Gail (Nicole Kidman), who’s pregnant. So Bob decides to make a video of his life as a keepsake for his unborn child. Written by Bruce Joel Rubin (Ghost), making his debut as a director, the film sounds like a pile of mawkish goo. It’s worse.
If there are a few nuggets of wit and wisdom buried under the film’s disease-of-the-week surface, Rubin doesn’t find them. He starts with the obvious and then accelerates. Luckily, Rubin has Keaton around. He’s not a cheap-trick actor, and his built-in cynicism holds off the flood of sentiment at least temporarily.
Bob starts his video project by hiring someone to interview his business colleagues on camera. But beneath the professional ass kissing, we see a thinly disguised contempt or, worse, the distinct impression that nobody knows who this guy really is, his wife included. Kidman looks lovely, as usual, but her chief function is to assist reconciliation between Bob and his Ukrainian parents, played by Michael Constantine and Rebecca Schull, who resent him for changing his name from Ivanovich. The ethnic humor is crudely exploited; there’s even a wedding. And when Dr. Haing S. Ngor (The Killing Fields) shows up as a faith healer, the New Age touchy-feelies take over.
There’s potential in a movie about a professional deceiver who gets slammed with some scummy facts about who he is by trying to sell an idealized version of himself to his child. Keaton could have played the hell out of that role. But Rubin swallows Bob’s PR campaign and then asks us to swallow it, too. No sale.