Boy loses girl ... and $100 million

November 05, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Cheerful and unpretentious, "The Bachelor" is a lightweight concoction that works best when it remembers it's supposed to be a comedy, less well when it tries to get at universal truths through the laughs.

Fortunately, the film doesn't do that often, and when it does (as, for instance, when it tries to make some point about men's and women's views on romance), it moves on fairly quickly, before any real damage is done.

It also never loses sight of its main strength: the chemistry between stars Chris O'Donnell and Renee Zellweger, who look so good up there together on the screen, you really hope these kids can make it work.

Jimmy Shannon (O'Donnell) is one of those eternally adolescent, petrified-of-commitment post-collegians who's watched in horror as his friends, one by one, have gone off and gotten themselves married. But not Jimmy, so determined is he to let the wild horse he sees in himself continue to run free.

And that seems to be just fine with his girlfriend, Anne (Zellweger), who seems of a like mind. But then the word "future" starts popping up in her conversation more and more, and Jimmy starts sweating: Sure, he loves Anne and all that, but you see, there's this horse

So he weighs his two futures in his mind Anne, or horse; marriage, or freedom. And Anne wins. Which is exactly how he proposes to her: "You win."

Far from being swept away by such a heartfelt proposal, Anne turns him down flat and storms home.

All of which is just a setup to the movie's main event: When Jimmy's grandfather (Peter Ustinov, so hammy he should be canned) dies, Jimmy's left his entire fortune of $100 million -- provided he marry by the time he turns 30.

Which is tomorrow.

Thus, the dilemma: Jimmy wants to marry Anne, who doesn't want to marry him, at least not yet. And Jimmy has to marry someone within 27 hours, or he'll lose all that money (and, in a story thread designed to make Jimmy look considerably less mercenary, the factory his granddad left behind will close and hundreds of people will lose their jobs).

"The Bachelor" has great fun with the absurdity of Jimmy's situation (especially with his truly awful wedding proposals), and some surprising faces pop in to play his former loves. There's also a memorably hilarious scene in which Jimmy is chased through the streets of San Francisco by several hundred would-be brides (that must have made for a memorable casting call).

But perhaps most wisely, "The Bachelor" pays homage to its inspiration -- a 1925 Buster Keaton classic -- without trying to duplicate it; in fact, it isn't until the film's final credits that Keaton's name is invoked. Which is as it should be; "The Bachelor" is no masterpiece, but then again, it doesn't try to be.

`The Bachelor'

Starring Chris O'Donnell and Renee Zellweger

Directed by Gary Sinyor

Released by New Line Cinema

Rated PG-13 (Language)

Running time 110 minutes

Sun score: ***

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