"The Next Best Thing" (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is more or less a fictional extrapolation of the real-life relationship of Madonna to her friend Rupert Everett. To refresh your memory, Everett is the big, openly gay, handsome lug who wants to be the first gay James Bond.

Anyway, the movie Everett and Madonna are both down in the dumps one night, and they get drunk and get it on and she ends up getting pregnant. She wanted a baby anyway, so she goes through with it, and the gay dad decides to move in with her and be the child's father, although the parents will each pursue their own lives in other matters. Very enlightened.

Things work out great for many years until Madonna falls in love with a guy who lives in another state. She decides that she can just take her son and go, but Everett and his family don't see it that way. The two of them go through some ugliness, and some court battles, and the movie is about their attempts to resolve the matter.

I guess you can deduce from that summary whether you want to spend any time on this slice-of-life character based comedy/drama.

Madonna doesn't perform any music. Well, she dances around the living room, and she sings only briefly and informally (Although I thought this quiet duet with Rupert Everett, over the casket at a friend's funeral, was the best scene in the movie.)

Although not a great film, this movie isn't a stinker on the level of "Supernova" or "I Dreamed of Africa". In fact, I thought parts of this film were quite touching. It was slickly produced, there was some humor, and the characters were developed quite well. I didn't mind watching it at all, and never touched the remote although it's an obvious attempt at a chick-flick. Critical opinion was sharply divided on this film, as noted below in more detail.

Believe it or not, screen legend John Schlesinger (Billy Liar, Midnight Cowboy, and many other fine films) directed this movie. He is now in his mid 70's.

The biggest negative, in my book: Madonna now speaks exclusively in perfectly modulated tones with her new refined accent. This would be fine if she were doing public service announcements, but it's much too stiff to bring vitality to her character, and she seems to deliver all her lines with the hollow self-awareness of a Stepford Wife.

I don't really understand why she's doing that. To me, Madonna's great success was generated by her vitality and daring. Now that's all under control and she delivers every line like one of those official spokespersons for the British royal family, or like Billie Burke as the Good Witch.

WTF? I'd like to see Madonna do a Jessica Lange - let us see her as a real person, breasts sagging a bit, face dirty, makeup running, hair unkempt, face contorted with rage, whatever is really deep down underneath the expensive clothing and the Henry Higgins articulation lessons. People say she can't act, but I don't belive that. I believe she won't act. And that's a shame.

NUDITY: The material girl showed off her still magnificent buns, as well as her breasts in a diaphanous bra. I suppose the bra was cool, since it allowed her to show off the shape she wanted, and allowed the rest of us to see the goodies.

Box Office: They spent $25 million to make it, and it did only $15 million domestic on 2000 screens.

General consensus: one and a half stars. (Berardinelli rather liked it, and gave it three stars because it looks beneath the surface at complicated issues in an entertaining way. To the opposite pole, Ebert panned it and slapped it with a single star. Ebert especially hated the contrived courtroom scene where the entire trial hinged on a surprise witness instead of a thoughtful examination of the facts.)

IMDB summary: 5.2 out of 10. In another wide disparity, Apollo rated it a respectable 70, but Apollo users zapped it hard with a paltry 35.

Rotten Tomatoes summary. Overall, 16% of critics gave it a positive review. Among the elite crites, it scored 19%.

DVD info from Amazon.

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