May 2, 2002

Likely Story

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What would you do if you only had one week left to live?

This is the foundation of Life or Something Like It, Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie’s first post-Tomb Raider entry directed by Stephen Herek, the conductor of Mr. Holland’s Opus.

One would think that such a thought-provoking question would give Herek and the poor souls who’s names are attached to this script, John Scott Shepherd and Dana Stevens, the chance to push comedic and emotional boundaries. Unfortunately, they ignore the possibilities that life has to offer even when that’s what the ambiguous title suggests.

Meet Lanie Kerrigan, played by Jolie, who’s a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. However, Ms. Kerrigan’s life crisis is not caused by turmoil in her perfect relationship with baseball star Cal Cooper, played by Christian Kane. Nor is her perfect job as a Seattle “news personality” at fault. Even her “trademark” perfect platinum blond hair isn’t the cause for alarm.

The craziness starts when a soothsayer dubbed Prophet Jack, played by Tony Shalhoub — who is by far a better actor than these roles give him credit for — predicts, while she is interviewing him for a puff piece, that the Jane Pauley-in-training will die the following Thursday.

Up until now, all we know about Lanie is that the boys passed her over for darker-haired beauties in high school. Nonetheless, now that Jack has handed out her death sentence, all her insecurities come pouring out like a Barbara Walters’ special and we’re supposed to believe that all of them have been under the surface all along. Apparently, it’s hard to see inner woe when you walk around like a Barbie-doll.

Edward Burns shows up and slithers through all his lines as Pete, a respected cameraperson whose whole job amounts to filming stuff when he wants to and looking uninterested during his down time. Pete has a tumultuous relationship with Lanie presumably because they had a fling sometime in the past. In the midst of their canny insults, the two highlight some those hidden issues and then do absolutely nothing to develop them.

How entertaining would it be to watch Lanie, with her own debutante voice, go buck wild at the world knowing that she is going to die soon? But this isn’t life, thus it never happens.

When we do get to see Jolie’s own abandon released, it’s in the form of a drunken crack-up at a rally where Lanie is praised for her ability to make grown people sing along to the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Sounds like what anyone would do if they knew they were going to die, right?

Life or Something Like It has an ambitious actress at its fingertips who opens up some interesting doors in the film. The problem is that Herek decides to scrap them to make room for some questionable thoughts on what’s really important in life and more shots of Burns’ baby blue eyes.

In the end, does fate have its way with the beleaguered Lanie?

It doesn’t really matter because this movie isn’t life, or anything like it.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins