Dir: David Mirkin
St: Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee, Jeffrey Jones, Gene Hackman
“How was the wedding?”
“Beautiful – just like all my weddings.”
Conners by name, conners by nature. Mother and daughter Max and Page have a devious racket – mum smooth talks rich guys into marriage (on a strictly “no sex before” basis) and gets daughter to seduce the over-enamoured male after an inevitably uneventful honeymoon hence leading to hefty divorce settlements for “irreparable psychological damage” and a lifestyle of glamour. But Page wants out and out means one last job. Well at least it would if her mother would be honest about the exact amount of remuneration she receives for the stings and then there’s the matter of the IRS needing $250,000 in unpaid taxes in super-quick time. There’s only one thing for it – Palm Beach, home of the obscenely rich and the outrageously paranoid to pick up a mega-payout. The question is who to choose. Mum plumps for Tensy, a tabacco mogul with $3 billion in assets and a chain-smoking habit that screams “days to live”. Page on the other hand fancies the super-rich (and at least cuter than a wheezing bigot, although “Cute is dangerous”) Dr Davis but discovers the extent of the good doctors molly coddling when she encounters his mum in a little bar. That bar is owned by Jack, an easy-going guy who is doomed to spend much of the rest of his life on the receiving end of Page’s aggressive put-downs and misplaced tantrums. Until, that is, Page finds out that Jack’s little bar is worth three million in hard cash…
With it’s aggressive casting and plot/character driven script Heartbreakers has all the pedigree of a return to more classical Hollywood comedies, albeit with a noughties spin. The Palm Beach settings provide the glamorous opulence of Hollywood’s golden age without appearing incongruous and the pairing of Weaver and Love Hewitt provides the bickering partnership central to many classic comedies. In many respects this is Dirty Rotten Scoundrel-esses where the main characters are both loathsome rogues but somehow manage to retain audience sympathy. However Heartbreakers is not classic Hollywood; at best it’s amusing, at worst it’s dull. First off is the desire to appeal to perceived “modern” comedy tastes; thus we are treated to the hilarity’s of “hair caught in zipper as wife bursts in on surreptitious blow job” or the “statue with the big knob that gets broken off” (this is the second well-endowed statue riff in as many weeks – The Parole Officer also played with the idea). In it’s place this is all and well (no-one likes a puerile gag better than me) but it’s so out of tune with the rest of the production that it seems there because it is perceived as “necessary” for commercial success.
Despite the fact that the film doesn’t drag too much it is none-the-less a good half an hour too long. This is perhaps surprising given Mirkin’s heavy involvement with The Simpsons (indeed Danny Elfman provides the theme for Heartbreakers), where timing is razor sharp and the requisite 22 minutes filled with detail and humour. Here too the best laughs are in the minor moments or in the background; witness our first introduction to Palm Beach – the camera pans across the travelogue friendly sight of the glades, the sun is shining and a little duck floats gently on the water… only to be munched by a huge alligator. Sadly the foregrounded story rarely manages to get this funny due to the pacing which maintains a steady flow rather than building up to a series of comedy climaxes. Ultimately the parlour antics and on-off love affairs wear thin and you are left waiting for the inevitable disastrous climax to be (unconvincingly) superseded by the “happily ever after” coda.
Heartbreakers is by no stretch a bad film it’s just another in this years seemingly endless parade of average flicks. Please someone come up with more to loathe! (Actually with American Pie 2 and Scary Movie 2 on the way it may be a very short wait…) Another case here of see if you must, otherwise catch it on television (but make sure they put it on properly, at least this one is in 1:2.35) where, despite the sexual situations and basic premise, it is probably better suited.