Duets (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The recipe: Rabbit Run meets The Hustler.

Make it Rabbit Sing.

About 30 years ago John Updike wrote a now rather famous novel called Rabbit Run in which the hero, Rabbit Angstrom, a former college jock turned boring middle class citizen, left the responsible ennui of his suburban life by going out for a pack of cigarettes and never returning.

Duets, in an obvious and direct homage to that moment, features Paul Giamatti, fed up with his irritatingly repetitious and meaningless suburban life, telling his wife he's going out for a pack of cigarettes.

She replies "you don't smoke", but he's actually headed for a case of the middle age crazies, the primary symptom of which is a road trip full of drugs and karaoke contests. He's never sung in karaoke before, is not even sure what it is, but it represents freedom to him, and he jumps on it. 

Along the way he gives a ride to a fleeing felon. The two men realize that they are similar in many ways. When they first meet, each describes his life without saying what it is he does. The life of a salesman on the road and the life of an imprisoned man are similar in many ways that we don't think about.  


Early in the movie, a karaoke groupie played by Amanda Kravat, did some modest topless angles in a sex scene with Huey Lewis.

Later on, Maria Bello showed her breasts from the side-rear (brief peek of nipple), and showed her bunds in a quick upward pan of her pulling on her underwear.

Along the way, the convict also makes the suburban nerd realize that their lives are very different, and that he should be thankful for what he has. 

That part of the movie is a beautiful and original love story. The prisoner teaches the salesman how (not) to rob a convenience store, the salesman teaches the convict how to drive. (Apparently he went from rural childhood to prison, and never learned to drive a car.) For the climax of their love, since they are both heterosexual, instead of making love, they sing a duet together. They also have some clever, funny, and original moments. One striking moment was when the convict thought he was about to be arrested by two uniformed cops after a duet, only to find out that the two cops had come to sing on duet night, but wouldn't even try after they heard him sing.

The ending to that particular story was melodramatic, but I really enjoyed the film when those two guys were on.

And then there was the other 2/3 of the movie, a trite film about the professional karaoke circuit, basically a Hal Needham movie with Huey Lewis instead of Burt Reynolds, filled with characters who were unrealistic, or undeveloped, or both. Huey played the part of a Karaoke Shark, hustling people in singing contests as if it were an 8-ball tournament. Fast Huey. Sigh. For the record all of these actors sing OK. That is to say they don't sing any worse than Huey Lewis. In fact, Gwyneth and Huey, although unimpressive in their solo numbers, sing a mellow duet version of Cruisin'. Gwyneth sang well enough and she is a fine actress as we all know, but she had the least credible part. It was written so poorly that she couldn't do a damned thing to make it believable. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1

  • Full-length director commentary

  • Cruisin' music video, three extended scenes

The Andre Braugher character, the convict, sings great, but he didn't do his own singing. Somebody named Arnold McCuller, however, is a helluva singer.

The Oscar committee missed a very important acting award that should have gone to the entire cast in one scene. Huey Lewis sings a numb, totally white bread version of the Joe Cocker arrangement of Feelin' Alright, the only strength of which was that it was on key. 

Now I've seen karaoke contests where the REAL Joe Cocker wouldn't blow them away, but this was about like listening to Potsie sing a Lightnin' Hopkins song. The rest of the actors had to pretend it was some really hot stuff that just blew away everyone in the room.

Now that's acting! 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: a little bit better than two stars. Ebert 2.5/4, Berardinelli 2/4, 

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 17% positive overall, 27% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.5
  • With their dollars ... a bomb. Four million gross on a fifteen million dollar budget.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C-, but it's too bad because the film has some fine moments wasted in a trite overall package.

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