Return to Me (2000)

Directed by Bonnie Hunt
Written by Bonnie Hunt & Don Lake, based on a story by Samantha Goodman, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake & Andrew Stern
Starring David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Carroll O'Connor, David Alan Grier, Robert Loggia

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Bob (Duchovny) is a happy guy and no one can blame him. Not only is he successful at his job raising buildings, but he's also madly in love with his wife, Elizabeth (Joely Richardson) who is successful in her own right as an acclaimed gorilla-ologist. Unfortunately, the world as Bob knows it comes to an end when Elizabeth dies in an accident (I'm not spoiling things, you pretty much knew this from the trailer). Just as his life gets shaken up, Grace (Driver) gets hers back. She's been in dire need of a heart transplant and when Elizabeth's becomes available, the tragedy has a silver lining--because Grace gets to live again. Now a year later, Bob and Grace seem destined to meet--but can they both get over their respective hang-ups and deal with what they've been given: a mutual second chance?

Okay, you'd think it would be a bit of a tearjerker--but forget the bit part: it's an unabashed tearjerker. However, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you can handle the first hour of the film, you'll be rewarded by the second. The first hour is mainly character setup on both sides of the equation, Bob's friends and Grace's friends and family, and it plods...often. And then there's that swing version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" that makes you question your own sanity. But once the two leads meet--there's real chemistry on the screen. Welcome to the first film where you don't find yourself asking, "What's Mulder doing here?" And Driver is her usual charming and solid self, and we're always pleased to see her. If they were the only ones providing the fun, though, it would have gotten old in a hurry. The true joy of the film is in the supporting cast, led by Carroll O'Connor as Grace's grandfather and Bonnie Hunt as her best friend. O'Connor is always a joy to see on screen, and here he's heading up a who's who of fine older actors including SDI fave Robert Loggia. Some of the funniest scenes are provided by on-screen couple Hunt and James Belushi along with their seemingly-ever-increasing number of children. This film also has the distinction of having the best use of a kitchen drawer I've ever seen.

And all this is well and good, but we must still ask the question: why does the film have to be two hours? Does no one hire an editor anymore? Does no one save anything for the DVD anymore? The actors are doing the best they can to squeeze two hours of life out of the setup, but it is just not happening. They can only do so much. It's a good date movie if you need one, otherwise save some dough and view on the small screen at home.

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