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'View From The Top'

'View' bottoms out

Friday, March 21, 2003

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

That gas mask you just bought for the lovely new war? Take it along and try it out on "View from the Top" -- a real stinkeroo of a romantic comedy from Brazilian director Bruno Barreto.

'View From The Top'

RATING: PG-13 for language and sexual references

STARRING: Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo, Mike Myers

DIRECTOR: Bruno Barreto

WEB SITE: www.viewfromthetop.html


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Gwyneth Paltrow is monumentally miscast as down-home Donna, fresh from high school and longing to escape the trailer-trash blues of Podunk, Nevada. Hope springs supernal in the form of "My Life in the Sky," the motivational autobiography of super-stewardess Candice Bergen.

Starting out in a red spandex stew's outfit on Sierra Airlines (serving Fresno only), Gwyneth has no place to go but up and farther away, and with a little mentoring from Bergen, makes an express career hop to top-of-the-line-airline Royalty. They stick her in Cleveland, where her consolation prize is an aspiring lawyer played by short, dark and handsome Mark Ruffalo. All is bliss for a bit but, hey, she's aspiring too. Forced to choose between coach-class love in Cleveland and a first-class intercontinental promotion, she opts for the upgrade. Will ambition ambush amour? Even more pressing, will anything comical ever happen?

Ah, surely it will when Mike Myers appears as a flight-attendant trainee supervisor with a near-terminal case of strabismus. But his crossed-eyes never generate the yuks that bankrupt writer Eric Wald was banking on. And Wald's "serious" dialogue is worse than his jokes.

We have the fine scenery of Paltrow's fabulous legs -- but, oy, veh, that lacquered blonde Brunhilda helmet of hair. No man would want to touch it for fear of fracturing the coif or his own hand. Pity Paltrow. Shoot her hairdresser.

Director Barreto made the terrific "Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands" (1978) and "Bossa Nova" (1999), a whimsical romp about four couples who keep breaking up and coming back together in different formations. He knows a thing or two about wild, wacky wooing and screwball comedy -- but of the mondo latino or continental kind. Barreto has both a cultural and linguistic problem here: Something's really wrong if you can't get laughs out of Mike Myers.

"View from the Top" sets back the cause of flight-attendant dignity several decades. On this sinking flight, the passenger-viewers are more in need of a comic than a flotation device.

Barry Paris can be reached at 412-263-3859.

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