'Whole Ten Yards' fumbles, stumbles and doesn't measure up
Special to The Seattle Times
"The Whole Nine Yards" was only about a yard short of being a worthwhile comedy back in 2000, but its sequel, "The Whole Ten Yards," doesn't even manage to get onto the playing field.
The happy couples we saw at the end of the first film aren't so happy at the start of this one. Former mob hit man Jimmy the Tulip (Bruce Willis), living in Mexico with his wife, Jill (Amanda Peet), seems to have lost it. His straggly blond hair is kept in place with an Aunt Jemima kerchief, and he's more worried about rubbing out stains than rubbing out people. Plus he's having trouble in the sack.
Over in Brentwood, Calif., Oz (Matthew Perry), the nervous dentist, has responded to his adventures in the first film by becoming an absolute paranoiac. His home is set up with high-tech security; he greets a cookie-selling Buttercup (Girl Scout) with a loaded gun; and when his wife, Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), tells him she's pregnant, he responds with dreams of building a moat around their house.
"Fear?" he says when she objects. "Who's talking about fear? I'm talking about a moat." Perry punctuates the line with all the subtlety of a sitcom actor.
Ah, but then Cynthia calls Jimmy in Mexico, and the two, we realize, are hatching a plan.
Is it a plan to make Oz less paranoid?
No, here's their plan: Cynthia will get kidnapped by the Hungarian mobster Lazlo Gogolak (Kevin Pollack), the father of Janni Gogolak (also Kevin Pollack), who was offed in the first film. Oz, in a panic, will then ask Jimmy for his help, and Jimmy will refuse, then reluctantly accept, meanwhile threatening to kill Oz the entire time.
Generally, when a character in a film is involved in their own secret subplot — see "The Usual Suspects" — the secret isn't revealed until the end, and often with flashbacks to the pertinent scenes so the audience can go: "Ohhhhh."
By revealing the secret subplot early, "Ten Yards" accomplishes two things. It removes any dramatic tension regarding the protagonists' peril because, after all, this is their plan. They're controlling events rather than being controlled by them. It also means we don't have to watch the movie again for plotholes. They're right in front of us. Getting shot at a thousand times — was that part of the plan? Cynthia being threatened — what about that? How about the craziness with the kerchief? And why go to these elaborate methods to reach their final goal? Whatever happened to simple breaking and entering?
Oh, and the movie's not funny either. Perry does for doors what Gallagher did for watermelons. That's not a compliment.
Erik Lundegaard: firstname.lastname@example.org
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