FILM REVIEW;From Lottery to Love In a New York Fairy Tale
There is a miracle at the center of “It Could Happen to You,” the blandly named romantic comedy that had the punchier working title “Cop Gives Waitress $2 Million Tip.” The original title plays itself out early in the film when the cop, Nicolas Cage, runs out of cash to tip the coffee-shop waitress, Bridget Fonda. He offers to share a lottery ticket instead, and the next day wins $4 million. But that quirk of fate is nothing beside another odds-defying event: two good-hearted people find each other in New York City. Now that’s a miracle, at least in the scheme of this movie, a sometimes awkward mix of savviness and schmaltz.
The other miracle is that the two stars of “It Could Happen to You” keep it sailing over a script that is often as predictable and flat as the movie’s new title. In one of the brighter touches, Charlie (Mr. Cage) is introduced carrying a blind man across the street and delivering a baby on a bus, presumably all in a day’s work. He is so impossibly selfless that the story begins with a fairy-tale prologue, in which a man named Angel says: “Once upon a time in New York there was a cop named Charlie. He was a very decent guy.”
No one needs a fairy godfather more than Yvonne (Ms. Fonda), who is introduced in bankruptcy court explaining to a judge why she married her loser of a husband, who has since left her with an overextended credit card and too little cash to pay for a divorce. He took her to “real restaurants, with linen and wine and good lighting,” she says.
When Charlie wins the lottery, his money-obsessed wife, Muriel (Rosie Perez), sees it as their ticket out of Queens. The decent Charlie, of course, insists on sharing it with Yvonne. “A promise is a promise,” he says, as if such honesty were always self-evident. Though Muriel is the standard, screeching Rosie Perez character, with a lot of energy and tacky taste, she provides some of the funniest moments. Muriel knew they’d be lucky in the lottery because she saw a sign in a dream: her dead father’s face appeared in place of cherries on a slot machine.
Charlie and Yvonne are obviously made for each other. The easy part is getting them together. The toughest trick in the film is to to keep them human and likable in the midst of all this fairy dust. Mr. Cage and Ms. Fonda manage to do that with winning simplicity. Mr. Cage’s sincere, hangdog expression lights into an immense warm smile whenever Yvonne is around. Ms. Fonda makes Yvonne sweet, smart and modest. Her idea of splurging after she becomes a millionaire is to buy a large jar of macadamia nuts, and to savor every one.
It can’t have been easy for the actors to liven up so many syrupy scenes, though. The film is loaded with episodes that seem too flabby to have come from Andrew Bergman, the writer and director of extremely funny, edgy comedies like “Honeymoon in Vegas” and “The Freshman.” The script is by Jane Anderson, who wrote the television satire “The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom.” Either one of them might have been expected to come up with sharper comedy and fresher romance.
Here, Yvonne and Charlie give away subway tokens at rush hour. They take neighborhood kids to play at Yankee Stadium while in the background Frank Sinatra sings: “Fairy tales can come true,/It can happen to you,/When you’re young at heart.” How’s that for being literal-minded?
Leaning so hard on the film’s fairy-tale quality doesn’t help. Genuine fairy tales, whether from the Brothers Grimm or Frank Capra, seem effortless. Calling attention to the improbable fantasy of Charlie and Yvonne’s grand adventure might sound like a wry touch. It comes off as a desperate move that makes the story more, not less, manipulative. Thank goodness for Muriel’s abrasiveness. Eventually she becomes the film’s cartoon villain, the wicked wife buying out Fifth Avenue and demanding all the lottery winnings for herself. Yet even her tantrums become part of the film’s genial but static quality.
The detailed touches work best. Tabloid headlines make Charlie and Yvonne fleeting celebrities, lottery winners in love. When Yvonne’s estranged husband shows up asking for money, she escapes to the Plaza Hotel. She enters the room, walks up to a huge bouquet of flowers and touches them to make sure they’re real, in a brief gesture that is honest and affecting.
Though “It Could Happen to You” lacks Mr. Bergman’s usual flash of originality, it is not nearly as soupy as last year’s romantic hit “Sleepless in Seattle,” and it isn’t saddled with the tortured plot of “I Love Trouble.” It ends with yet another last-minute miracle, one that proves New York is full of good-hearted people after all. Like so much in this sweetly amusing movie, it’s an idea that carries more hope than conviction.
“It Could Happen to You” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). It includes some violence when Charlie is shot in the line of duty.
IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU
Directed by Andrew Bergman; written by Jane Anderson; director of photography, Caleb Deschanel; edited by Barry Malkin; music by Carter Burwell; production designer, Bill Groom; produced by Mike Lobell; released by Tri-Star Pictures. Running time: 101 minutes. This film is rated PG.
WITH: Nicolas Cage (Charlie Lang), Bridget Fonda (Yvonne Biasi), Rosie Perez (Muriel Lang), Red Buttons (Walter Zakuto), Seymour Cassel (Jack Gross), J. E. Freeman (Sal Bontempo), Isaac Hayes (Angel), Wendell Pierce (Bo Williams) and Stanley Tucci (Eddie Biasi)
FILM REVIEW;From Lottery to Love In a New York Fairy Tale There is a miracle at the center of “It Could Happen to You,” the blandly named romantic comedy that had the punchier working title “Cop
Nicholas cage lottery movie
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A cop is unable to tip a waitress, but instead promises to split the proceeds with her if he wins the lottery. However, his elation when he actually bags the jackpot quickly fades when his furious wife makes it plain she does not want him to honour the pledge. Romantic comedy, starring Nicolas Cage, Bridget Fonda, Rosie Perez and Isaac Hayes.