Badda-bing

Hugh Grant gives a surprisingly punchy performance.

HUGH GRANT CLAIMS that his "chemistry" with Julia Roberts was "nothing" compared to the chemistry between himself and James Caan. This may be a savvy marketing ploy on the part of an actor who still has an indiscretion of sorts hanging at the edge of the public memory, or a rather underhanded remark about Roberts and her multimillion dollar "chemicals"; but more likely it is the result of Grant ending up in the midst of a decent script and an equally decent set of costars.

MICKEY BLUE EYES

directed by Kelly Makin

starring Hugh Grant, Jeanne Tripplehorn, James Caan

now playing at Metro, Mountlake 9, and others

At any rate, Caan is a vision of tough-guy charm—with a soft, sweet center, of course—and looks absolutely kick-ass in a burgundy suit and gold-rim aviator sunglasses. But you knew that. As for the other chap, I am admittedly one of those people who doesn't care which side of Notting Hill the Englishman went up or what he was when he came down the other side, but Grant is, I daresay, quite good in this film. Grant fits what I like to call the Keanu Reeves Theory for actors: He is at his best, that is, not intolerable, when his character is worried and bumbling, e.g., most of this film—much the way Keanu Reeves is at his best when his character is confused or in awe, e.g., "Whoa, dude," and "I know kung fu." And Mickey just happens to contain splendid doses of Grant's dopey face all crunched up under his furrowed little English brow.

Joel Siegel has said that there are too many in-jokes between Grant and producer Elizabeth Hurley in this film for it to be funny (you know, for us non-industry people). If there really are a lot of in-jokes, you won't notice. One of the supposed "insiders" involves a certain character's gait, and it's pretty funny on its own. But if you want to imagine Elizabeth Hurley finding it even funnier than you do, go right ahead. Because after all, we all know Joel Siegel is a fool.

Mickey Blue Eyes is every bit as clever and funny as any film in the genres it unapologetically apes: romantic comedy, mafioso caper, crime-and-punishment thriller. And, thank goodness, it's funnier than the premise. If you're worried that, as the trailers suggest, Mickey is an hour and a half of Grant schlepping his way through his worst (or best) DeNiro, you're in luck. It's actually only about 10 minutes of that, and the rest involves an accidental killing, a wedding, the FBI, dirty dancing, laundered money, bad painting, and, you guessed it, a way for everything to work out, badda-bing, just fine.

If you're tired of goodfella stereotypes and cheesy Dean Martin songs, this may not be the movie for you. But if you're willing to suspend such preferences for the sake of a good or guilty laugh, this is probably one of the better comedies Hollywood is going to give you this year.

 
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