Nine Months

There are some things I've come to expect from a "Chris Columbus" film. Consider the following devices Columbus has used before (with their respective films) - and uses again in Nine Months:
  •  Catchy Phil Spector music (Adventures In Babysitting)
  •  Slapstick physical comedy (Home Alone)
  •  Wildly improbable situations (Home Alone 2) and
  •  Robin Williams (Mrs. Doubtfire)

  • Columbus has obviously been soaking up material from those films he didn't write (and cramming it all in this one he did), and for the most part he's learned quite a bit. He's even worked himself up to inside-joke level (A theater marquee passed in the climactic race to the hospital reads "Home Alone VII"). But did he learn the right things?

    What concerns me is that Columbus considers the two funniest things in the world to be pain and humiliation. Yes, these can be funny, but Columbus has taken them to new extremes (watch Home Alone 2 again if you want to see how sadistic things can get).

    Putting the hurt aside, Columbus has also got a soft spot. Even though there's mayhem going on all around, there's eventually a warm moment. The tricky thing is to vary the harsh and soft moments, keeping things mixed well. Columbus' problem is his scenes mix about as well as oil and water.

    Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore are appealing as the expectant mother and the frazzled father. Moore has deserved this much for a long time, a chance to carry a movie. Grant pretty much mugs for the camera the whole time, but he does this so good-naturedly you can't help but be won over by his charm.

    The supporting players, unfortunately, seem to be filling thankless roles as contrasting characters. Tom Arnold and Joan Cusack are mismatched as a couple expecting for their fourth time. They are obviously meant to be a contrast for Grant and Moore, but they are overused for broad comedy. Dropping some of their screen time would have gotten rid of some of the more labored  (pun only partially intended) attempts to force silly, unbelievable situations down our throats (Would you try CPR on someone who was moving? Would you want to beat up a guy in a dinosaur suit in front of kids? Do these scenes even need to be in this movie?).

    Most colossally wasted is Jeff Goldblum, playing a friend of Grant's who would end a perfect relationship rather than have a child. By the middle of the film, he's a wreck for it. Then he's happy again. Go figure.

    Robin Williams is another story altogether. In a baby movie you have to have an obstetrician, right? Well, Wiliams fits the bill incredibly well. His scenes are very wacky, but somehow it's easier to accept him going nuts rather than Tom Arnold. Williams' appearance is basically an extended cameo, but he's the comedic highlight of the film.

    The overall result is a movie in some kind of emotional limbo. It's too sappy and serious to be a great comedy, and too silly to be taken seriously. My advice is to ignore the bad and enjoy the sporadic bright moments of joy and laughter - now or in Nine Months.

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