Monday, September 20, 2010

Excessively Crummy: Excess Baggage Is An Overall Disappointment.

The Good: ?, the Actors, but not the acting
The Bad: Lack of characterization, crummy plot, atrocious dialogue, lowbrow humor.
The Basics: There is no one in this world I hate enough to recommend they waste their time watching this Excess Baggage.

When I was still in college, I had the good fortune of being able to review movies for the school newspaper. That meant I was reimbursed for my ticket price and saw films for free. Excess Baggage was the only film I was condemned to that I truly wanted my money back from. It's also the only one I was never reimbursed from. I still feel terribly cheated.

If all of this seems unnecessary, now you know how I felt watching Excess Baggage. There was not a single redeeming thing about this movie and everything about the movie felt excessive (the over the top acting, the depth to which the film insults the viewer's intelligence) or unnecessary (about half the scenes, having such a talented cast - this crappy script could have been made with unknown actors and still done as well as it did).

Emily is the daughter of an exceptionally rich businessman, who neglects her. Spoiled and bored, Emily connives her way into his attention through various stunts. Unfortunately for her, her latest attempt to garner his attention comes when something truly does go wrong for her, at about the time her father and Ray are figuring out that she cries wolf quite a bit. As a result, Emily locks herself in the trunk of her car and makes a fake ransom call to her father, but soon discovers that she is truly being abducted.

Vincent, a car thief, sees her pricey car and steals it with Emily in the trunk. When Emily is released, she convinces Vincent to keep her around and make the abduction as real as possible, leaving Ray frantic to get his daughter back. On the run, Emily and Vincent develop a romantic relationship and Emily does her best to grow out of her need for her father's attention, taking Vincent's reluctant affection instead.

I volunteered to review this film originally because I hadn't seen anything with Alicia Silverstone in it and because I loved Benicio Del Toro in the magnificent The Usual Suspects. Sadly, there is nothing so grand here.

First, the plot of Excess Baggage is obvious and as predictable as it is dumb. From the moment Emily and Vincent square off it becomes "That Kind Of Movie," the type of stupid romantic comedy that tries to pair two people together through a reckless road trip. The moment they face one another, anyone with half a brain will know that they will begin to become closer and closer and they will end up in a romantic relationship of some sort. Sadly, the flick never becomes smart enough do anything even remotely surprising in that regard and anyone who has seen any movie of the type will see the middle and end a mile away. There is nothing fresh or new here.

Second, none of the characters pop or are even remotely interesting. I'm someone with a wealth of father issues, so I have no problem saying that Emily's character makes no sense. She craves her father's attention, yet has everything in the world she could want outside that. Indeed, far more compelling and intriguing for a character like this would have been circumstances where Emily traditionally got away with a lot of things because her father was not around and paying attention and in this instance, she ended up involved in something that she could not easily extricate herself from as a result. Then, actually needing her father to come through would have been harrowing and interesting.

I suppose, though, that that might not have made for as good of a romantic comedy. Truth be told, though, it couldn't have made this movie worse; finding the humor in a situation of real desperation might just have sold it better.

Vincent is pretty much the generic "guy from the wrong side of the tracks" and as a result, he does not have so much character as he embodies a type. Through the course of the "adventure" he and Emily learn from one another . . . and the viewer does not care. Benicio del Toro plays Vincent and he does so without any of the quirky brilliance that made his role of Fenster in "The Usual Suspects" brilliant and likable. Instead, here he is dull and uninspired.

Similarly, Christopher Walken, who plays Ray, lacks less pep than he had in the music video for "Weapon Of Choice."

But much of the movie falls upon Alicia Silverstone to sell and sadly she falls down on that front. I've seen interviews with Silverstone and she is quite smart and together. She is actually someone who - outside the over-the-top Hollywood good looks - makes one wish that you could meet her in real life and start a conversation because she does seem so down-to-earth, smart and all-around lovely. But in Excess Baggage, she is alternately stiff and lost, making her performance desperate to try to get a laugh or make a point and she just collapses under the weight of trying so hard.

It doesn't help Silverstone that the script is absolutely terrible, making it a tough sell to try to act with it. But here she doesn't even get the opportunity to shine, she just shows up.

My advice instead of watching Excess Baggage would be to pick up The Usual Suspects and watch the Aerosmith video "Crazy." That gets the two top billed actors doing something far more intelligent than this stupid "rich girl tries to ransom herself but it goes horribly awry" flick.

For other romantic comedies, please check out my reviews of:
Valentine's Day
Going The Distance


For more film reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010, 2008, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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