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Video Reviews: 'Someone Like You' is a romantic romp in New York

Friday, September 21, 2001

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In times of crisis, video renters gravitate to family films, romantic comedies and other lightweight fare or action flicks in which the terrorists are vanquished. Even a romantic comedy, however, can include references that jolt you back -- temporarily -- to reality.

In "Someone Like You," sweethearts Ashley Judd and Greg Kinnear go apartment-hunting in New York. A real-estate agent ushers them into a fabulous place, complete with a balcony, and gushes, "Isn't it just wonderful? Wait till you see the view. It's just spectacular ... right down to the World Trade Center."

In movies set and filmed in New York, visual or vocal references to the famous twin towers once were inevitable. When director Tony Goldwyn filmed that bit of dialogue last fall, he obviously had no idea of the terror to come. Nor when he did cell phone interviews from New York on Sept. 6 to promote this week's video release.

The Connecticut actor-director, part of Hollywood's legendary Goldwyn family, said he insisted on filming his movie in New York.

"The head of Fox said to me, 'Tony, I don't care where you make your movie, but I know how much money I can give you to make it.' Yeah, I had to sacrifice a fair bit to shoot in New York, but it was worth it to me to have the look, the real look of New York as opposed to Toronto pretending to look like New York, and also to give the jobs to U.S. workers."

"Someone Like You" ( ) stars Judd as Jane Goodale, a talent booker for a New York talk show. She falls quickly and hard for a new executive producer, played by Kinnear. Just as they're about to sign a lease on the dream apartment, he slowly recedes from her life. Left with heartache and no place to live, she bunks with another co-worker, played by lady killer Hugh Jackman.

Filling small roles are Marisa Tomei as Jane's single-gal friend and Ellen Barkin as the TV host.

Goldwyn is at the forefront of the battle to keep movie and TV production in this country. It's hard to beat the tax breaks and monetary exchange rate offered by Canada, but the director thinks the industry is making strides against what's called "runaway production."

"Once people realize that it's not about helping movie stars and helping big movie companies," they listen more carefully. "It's not about me. I'll make my money as an actor and as a director working anywhere. It's the blue-collar workers and the small businesses that get infusions of millions of dollars when films come to their communities that are being hurt.

"It's not the movie stars and the studios" that suffer. "When I tell that to politicians, they go, 'Wow, this is a small-business and a labor issue.' " Of course it's one likely relegated to a back burner as politicians and the city of New York deal with the aftermath of last week's terrorist strikes.

As Hollywood wobbles back to business, "Someone Like You" is getting a second chance at capturing an audience -- assuming the copies arrived on time. Stores that handle videos had been told to brace for possible delays in delivery of new tapes and DVDs.

Goldwyn, an actor whose recent credits include "An American Rhapsody," "Bounce" and "The 6th Day," had not directed a romantic comedy before this. He learned there were certain rules of the romantic game along with the challenge of making the "emotional life of the characters real and resonant so that it didn't just feel phony-baloney and totally formulaic."

He wanted moviegoers to identify with the heartbroken and think, "I've been there." Goldwyn also wanted actors who had chemistry, who could bring the story to life and make the audience care about them.

Well, yes, but aren't the leading actors a bit too good-looking and smart to be lacking for companionship for long? Goldwyn laughed and said, "Well, I thought about that, but it's a movie and it's a romantic fable, and I think that people like to watch movie stars. ...

"Ashley is drop-dead beautiful, and yet she's also like an Everygirl. You can say the same thing about Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock. They're beautiful women, but they're accessible."

He thinks Jackman is much the same. "No one knew him. When I cast him, 'X-Men' hadn't come out yet. I said we gotta grab this guy," because he's going to be a big star.

Even a movie director, however, only has so much power. Take the title of the movie. Please.

Goldwyn "fought like crazy" for the studio to give it something more memorable. "This is really a fun romantic comedy and at the same time, it's a little offbeat, goofy. I got into a real argument with the studio over the title they put on the movie because it was very, very generic."

The movie had been inspired by the novel "Animal Husbandry" but that title obviously was scrapped. "I know people who said, 'What was the name of your movie again?' I had people say, 'I saw the movie, what was it called? I can't remember the name of it.' At least five people said that. ... So that was frustrating."

The DVD, by the way, includes an alternate ending that Goldwyn describes as "an ending I was extremely unhappy with -- it just didn't work. We really had trouble ending this movie as we were writing it and making it. We just couldn't get it right," although Goldwyn ultimately was pleased with the reshot conclusion.

Goldwyn is preparing to direct a few other films, including one called "Walk of Fame" written by Mark Andrus ("As Good As It Gets"), but he has no intention of abandoning acting. "I love doing both. ... It takes some time to get a movie off the ground as a director and to be able to act -- and make money off acting -- is great."

FAMILY FARE: If you're looking for something the entire family can watch, you have a couple of new options. One is "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" ( ), the third adventure starring Paul Hogan as the croc hunter. It's rated PG for some language and brief violence.

Mick "Crocodile" Dundee, his longtime girlfriend, Sue (real-life wife Linda Kozlowski), and their 9-year-old son, Mikey (Serge Cockburn), travel from Australia to Beverly Hills. Sue agrees to head the Los Angeles bureau of her father's newspaper, and she uncovers suspicious goings-on at a small movie studio.

As in "Crocodile Dundee 2," Mick is a fish out of water as he stops freeway traffic to rescue a skunk, punctures a fake anaconda on a studio tour and is horrified to hear about coffee colonics (courtesy of cameo player George Hamilton). Although not very funny or original, it's also not terribly mean-spirited. All in all, a tame way to pass 94 minutes of your weekend.

A better bet for older children would be "Spy Kids" ( ), featuring a brother and sister who are turned into junior James and Jane Bond to rescue their parents. Mom and Dad were international superspies who are lured back to the business when seven top OSS spies vanish.

Tied into the disappearance is a techno-wizard and children's TV host named Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming) who has done dastardly things to the spies and has the parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) tied up. It's fun to watch the children be plunged into the world of espionage, complete with cool Super Guppy submarine pods, electroshock bubble gum and other high-tech toys.

The squabbling siblings (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) come into their own while saving the world from an army of robot children -- the scene of their heads being opened so brains can be inserted is creepy -- and their creators.

I wouldn't recommend "Spy Kids" for preschoolers frightened by the idea of parents being kidnapped or by the robots, but for older children, it could be an imaginative diversion. "Spy Kids" is rated PG for action sequences.

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