Serendipity (2001) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Scoopy Jr and I, being from different generations, and separated physically for nearly two decades, don't agree on that many things, but we are both great fans of John Cusack.

When I look at Cusack objectively, I can see that he's not the most talented guy in the world. Unlike Edward Norton, for example, he can't sing or dance or do accents or transform his body to a different shape. He's always just John Cusack. But he's very good at being John Cusack, which is to say that his always genuine in his roles, and his presence alone is enough to confer credibility on a project. When you see Cusack doing something on camera, you are convinced that he is a real person, and that he is doing something that a real person would do. I suppose at one time, when acting was first invented, that element of conviction was the ultimate measurement of success, although the rules have changed radically over the centuries. Now some acting is completely stylized to the point that the characters are unrecognizable as fellow "normal" humans (like any Shakespeare not performed by Branagh), while most movie acting has become quasi-symbolic, in the sense that the performers are acting out archetypes rather than real people. Modern screen acting has taken this many degrees of separation from reality in the post-modernist sense that actors are doing riffs on previous movie characters rather than on human characters. As time goes on, it seems to me that movies seem to be more and more about previous movies.

But Cusack is an old fashioned actor, a latter day Jimmy Stewart who just tries to bring a sense of honesty to his work. He has chosen parts that were good for him, and he has generally chosen to perform in projects that he likes rather than those which will fatten his wallet.

Until now.



This makes two straight Cusack movies (America's Sweethearts being the other) that are completely contrived Hollywood formula films, the kinds of movies created by the marketing department and designed purely to make a buck, and not the kind that believe in something or want to say something. I don't mean to be harsh. The formulaic Hollywood bullshit tree has a place in this world, and I enjoy some of its fruits. It is slick and professional. It's just that I don't want to see Cusack do this kind of crap, and I hope he leaves future projects of this nature to Pierce Brosnan and Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks, and others who have already sold their souls to Hollywood Satan. Slick professionalism has its place, but Cusack is the very antithesis of "slick". To his fans, of which I count myself, he represents unadorned and heartfelt passion for his projects and his characters.

This script is just about the dumbest of the Hollywood dumb. Cusack and Kate Beckinsale play two strangers who meet and fall in love in a New York department store at Christmas time, but they are both involved with other people, so they (that is to say SHE) decide to leave their future in the hands of destiny. She writes her name and phone number inside a copy of a Gabriel Marquez novel, he writes his on a dollar bill. If the info comes back to the other party, it is a sign that they are meant to be.

Years pass, and the film irritatingly has them just missing each other - one of them walking into an elevator while the other comes out of the adjacent elevator, and other such artificial developments which can best be described in terms involving the fecal matter of male bovines. Finally, after seven years of irritating near-coincidences, with each of them engaged to another person, Cusack's betrothed gives him the traditional groom's gift just hours before the wedding. Gee, can you guess what it is?

1. A good thorough blow-job

2. A copy of Marquez's novel - in fact, THE copy with the Beckinsale phone number.

3. A Swiss Army Knife.

DVD info from Amazon.

Starz Encore "On The Set"
Director's Production Diary
Deleted Scenes With Director's Commentary
Stills Gallery
Storyboard Comparisons
Widescreen anamorphic format, 1.85:1

That reminds me. Does the Swiss Army have any other kitchen utensils? Can you get a Swiss Army salad fork, for example? They really should think about product extensions. But I digress.

The movie isn't as bad as it might have been because Cusack brings his usual sincerity to the role, and because some great comedic character actors provide laughs in the minor roles, notably Jeremy Piven and Eugene Levy, two of the great comedy ensemble players.

But, let's face it, we knew they were going to get together, didn't we?

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 1.5/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, BBC 4/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.9/10. Women score it 7.4. People under 18 score it 8.0.
  • with their dollars: $50 million domestic gross. $28 million budget. It will turn out profitable in the long run.
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. OK Hollywood BS romantic comedy, partially redeemed by some good support players.

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