May 1, 2014

Review: Kissing a Fool (1998)

Kissing a Fool came out when the TV series Friends was still in full swing. If you're David Schwimmer, why not take a dive into the world of romantic comedy? Not only did he star in it, he was the executive producer too. He had already had some experience producing with a film called Shoot the Moon but I don't think anyone really watched it. The stars are definitely more favourably lined up for Kissing a Fool with Jason Lee on board who had already starred in two Kevin Smith films previously.

Based on a short story in Don Quixote, Kissing a Fool takes an overused love triangle plot and tries to turn it into a fast talking, Woody Allen-esque romantic comedy. Writers James Frey and Doug Ellin don't have the chops though to deliver on such a lofty goal and the movie falls flat in the end.


Genre: comedy, romance
Directed by: Doug Ellin
Produced by: Andrew Form, Rick Lashbrook, Tag Mendillo, etc.
Written by: James Frey, Doug Ellin
Music by: Joseph Vitarelli
Running time: 93 minutes
Production company: Largo Entertainment, Rick Lashbrook Films
Distributed by: Largo Entertainment, Universal Pictures, Laser Paradise, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $19,000,000
Box office: $4,106,588 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: David Schwimmer, Jason Lee, Mili Avital, Bonnie Hunt, Vanessa Angel, Kari Wuhrer, Frank Medrano, Bitty Schram, Judy Greer, Ron Beattie, Doug Ellin, Tag Mendillo, Justine Bentley 



David Schwimmer plays a dumb, egocentric and commitment-fearing sports newscaster who is like every similar-minded character you've ever seen on film. Jason Lee on the other hand is the nice, sensitive novelist and this begs the question, why are they friends in the first place? They're basically nothing alike, but they play the only two kinds of characters that Hollywood would like us to believe exist.

Lee's Jay Murphy sets up Schwimmer's Max Abbit with Sam Andrews who is played by Mili Avital. They hit it off right away and plan to get married very quickly. Turns out that since Max is suddenly very aware that he doesn't like commitment, he wants Jay to try and get Sam to sleep with him as a test to see if she would be loyal to him. This is all told in flashback form with a character played by Bonnie Hunt recounting the tale.

It's pretty clear that Kissing a Fool offers nothing new. The type of characters that Jay and Max are seem to be as old as time. One thing I find a little strange though is how much swearing there is. Not that I'm a prude or anything, but it just seemed very misplaced and overused. I guess David Schwimmer really wanted a break from his regular TV language, but it takes more than just empty swearing to make a movie edgy.

The laughs are pretty few and far between and the script likes to shout where the story is going instead of giving mild hints here and there. Nothing is unexpected whatsoever. The modern day romantic comedy isn't very well known for surprising its viewers but a Kissing a Fool couldn't be more obvious about its intentions from start to finish.

I do get the feeling though that David Schwimmer had a blast doing this movie. He wanted a break from his usual grind and he plays his role with glee. Unfortunately, Kissing a Fool flopped in the end. It took in only $4 million against a $19 million budget. That's pretty steep, but Schwimmer's got the cash/will get the cash so I don't feel very bad. This was a vacation for Schwimmer and I think the rest of the cast had fun as well.

Trying to emulate Woody Allen's style is a tall order. It's possible that this wasn't the goal, but it really seems like it with all the talking and the style of dialogue. The comedy part of the romantic comedy fails to create any legitimate laughs and the romance part also fails to deliver. Kissing a Fool is watchable in the sense that you might be watching it as you multitask. As primary entertainment, you can do much better.



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