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Life or Something Like It (April 27/02)

Life or Something Like It, unfortunately, is yet another example of a film in which all the pivotal plot points are given away in the trailer (except for one, but even that's obvious enough). And sadly, everything that comes in between the moments we already know about isn't much better.

Angelina Jolie stars as Lanie Kerigan, a successful local reporter with the perfect life (or so she says). She's got a famous baseball-playing boyfriend, great friends, and the opportunity for a position on a national morning show has just popped up. But fate throws her a curveball one sunny Thursday morning, when she heads out into the field to interview a homeless man known as Prophet Jack (played by Tony Shalhoub). Along with the results of a football game and some weather predictions, Jack tells Lanie that she's got but one week to live. Lanie is, of course, shocked but her cameraman (Ed Burns) insists that Jack is often wrong. But when his two other predictions come true, Lanie has no choice other than to believe that she is indeed going to die in less than a week. The remainder of the film follows Lanie's re-evaluation of her life and the new direction she takes it in with the time she has left.

It's a semi-interesting premise, but the execution is all wrong. Director Stephen Herek (Mr. Holland's Opus, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure) initially keeps the film moving at a brisk pace, but once Lanie discovers what she discovers, the momentum grinds to a halt. The movie ceases to be the breezy good time it started out as, and becomes Lanie's introspective look at her miserable existence. This leads to countless sequences featuring Jolie moping about with a confused look on her face, questioning the various people in her life as to whether or not they're happy. While it may be an accurate representation of what a person would do if they found out they were going to die soon, it's simply doesn't work because Lanie is not a compelling character in any fashion. As the movie opens, she's exceedingly happy with her life and as the film progresses, we don't really get any evidence that her old lifestyle was all that horrible. Her boyfriend turns out to be somewhat vain, but that's about the extent of it.

Having said that, the performances are surprisingly good. Jolie, often relegated to social misfit type roles, is quite good playing a relatively normal person. Jolie manages to make the radical lifestyle changes employed by Lanie seem sort of plausible. Burns is good, too, though he does seem to be making a career out of playing the exact same part in every movie he appears in. But the real star of this film is Shalhoub as Prophet Jack. As he did with his small role in The Man Who Wasn't There, Shalhoub steals every scene he's in - so much so that it's easy to wish the entire film was about his character, rather than Jolie's.

Life or Something Like It is occasionally enjoyable (such as a mass sing-along set to the strains of The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction") but it's mostly just dull and forgettable.

out of