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'Life or Something Like It'

Prediction doesn't lead to much in 'Life or Something Like It'

Friday, April 26, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

If "Broadcast News" had been released today, instead of 1987, Holly Hunter would have been attracted to Albert Brooks and not William Hurt. But instead of a desperate single guy, Brooks would have been a divorced or widowed dad. Today's female fairy tale involves a job that's rewarding but not all-consuming and an available man with a hidden tender side and well-behaved child tucked away.

 
 
'LIFE OR SOMETHING LIKE IT'

RATING: PG-13 for sexual content, brief violence and language

STARRING: Angelina Jolie, Edward Burns, Tony Shalhoub

DIRECTOR: Stephen Herek

Critic's call:

   
 

At least that's what I concluded after watching "Life or Something Like It," starring a platinum-blond Angelina Jolie as Lanie Kerrigan, a feature reporter for a Seattle television station who decides she's leading the perfect life. Lanie and a colleague tick off the ingredients: great job, boyfriend (a Seattle Mariners player), friends, trademark hairstyle and well-toned body in Dolce & Gabbana clothes. She also is in the running for a job with a network morning news show based in New York.

Life is very good. In movieland, that means you're tempting the fates. Or, as it turns out, a homeless prophet named Jack (Tony Shalhoub) who stands on Seattle sidewalks issuing predictions and hoping passers-by drop a few coins in his box.

Lanie is led to Jack by a cameraman named Pete (Edward Burns) for a lightweight story about who's going to win a big football game. Along with providing a score and bonus weather forecast, Jack tells Lanie, "Next Thursday, you're going to die. ... I'm sorry."

"Life or Something Like It" spends the rest of movie charting Lanie's reaction to this prophecy as she increasingly fears it will come true. It, naturally, colors her relationships with her baseball player-boyfriend (Christian Kane), widowed father, married sister and Pete, along with how she approaches her job. She unwittingly pulls a stunt that, in this universe, gets her noticed but in the real world would get her blackballed.

As the fateful Thursday draws near, the story teases us with detours of danger and destiny and one hard-to-believe coincidence.

Although the premise is intriguing and the Seattle backdrop fresh, "Life or Something Like It" is the movie equivalent of a baseball bunt. It advances the game but is not terribly satisfying.

In the end, it's an old-fashioned romance with leads whose chemistry is rather tepid. The story cries out for more Lanie on camera, and subplots with her family seem truncated. The love vs. career debate at the movie's heart is presented as an either-or proposition, with no room for compromise.

The Oscar-winning Jolie, here playing a woman who watched "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" as a girl and obviously liked Marilyn Monroe's style, refashions her look after "Tomb Raider," "Original Sin" and "Girl, Interrupted." Jolie is quite good, making the most of a script that wants to be deep but gets about as deep as her dark hair roots.

"Life or Something Like It" was directed by Stephen Herek, the man behind "Mr. Holland's Opus" but also "Rock Star" and "Holy Man." The story is by Scott John Shepherd ("Joe Somebody"), who shares screenplay credit with Dana Stevens.

Sitting through "Life or Something Like It" is not an unpleasant experience, as "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" was. It's not disturbing, like "Frailty." It's just not above average.

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