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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.22%
Worth A Look: 24.44%
Pretty Bad: 21.11%
Total Crap: 6.67%

8 reviews, 42 user ratings

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by Andrew Howe

"Promises little, but delivers a little more"
3 stars

If the primary function of a trailer is to convince the public to lay their cash on the counter, then the marketing gurus responsible for Heartbreaker's highlights reel had best hope that their annual bonuses aren't tied to the film's box-office takings. A spot survey of friends, colleagues and complete strangers suggests that the average punter will be comfortably ensconced in another cinema when it hits the screens, for reasons which hinge upon the concerns the trailer raises about the uninspired plot, surfeit of lowbrow humour and Jennifer Love Hewitt's acting ability. The refusal of the common man to suffer another insult to his much-abused intelligence would seem to warrant a heartfelt chorus of "Power to the People", but unfortunately only one of these apprehensions is truly justified, leaving us with a rare example of a trailer that makes the film appear worse than it actually is.

The script hangs its hat on a key plot point which is revealed in the first ten minutes (not to mention the aforementioned trailer), but if you want to retain the element of surprise I suggest you mark this page and come back later. For everyone else, I can safely reveal that the film concerns itself with a couple of female grifters who specialise in swindling unsuspecting males out of their assets. Max (Sigourney Weaver) convinces single men with delusions of grandeur to waltz down the aisle, then uses her daughter Page (Hewitt) to charm them into committing adultery. No red-blooded male would convict them, but a court certainly would, so it's an easy ticket to an unconsummated marriage, quickie divorce and fifty percent of the poor slob's worldly possessions.

The bulk of the running time is devoted to chronicling Max's moves on her latest mark, a chain-smoking tobacco magnate (Gene Hackman), and Page's attempts to pull a similar stunt on Jack (Jason Lee), a mild-mannered bar owner. Max, however, finds that the road to riches is not as smooth as she might have hoped, Page trades her empty pledges of undying love for the real thing, and everyone stumbles towards a fate which is either considerably better or worse than they deserve.

Some comedies are aimed squarely at the teen market (American Pie, Tomcats), while others service the "adult" demographic (The Birdcage, Analyze This). A quick scan of the credits will usually tip you off as to which side of the fence you're likely to land, since the presence of an actor known to appeal to an older crowd (such as Robin Williams or Billy Crystal) is usually a sure sign that you can book a seat for Granny with impunity. Heartbreakers hedges its bets (in much the same way that Meet the Parents did last year) by presenting us with two teams of players - Weaver, Hackman and Ray Liotta bring in the adults, while Hewitt and Lee give it some much-needed street cred amongst the younger generation.

As it turns out, Weaver and Liotta single-handedly raise the film from the depths to which it obviously aspired. Galaxy Quest proved that Weaver possesses some measure of comic talent, and the vampish Max provides her with another opportunity to let it all hang out. Weaver’s characters are rarely entirely likeable (even Ripley was more than a little cold-hearted), which makes her perfect for the role - her natural charm lends credence to Max's ability to play men for fools, while her natural edge enables her to believably depict Max's calculating duplicity. Liotta is equally well-cast as Dean, one of Max’s earlier victims, and he makes the most of his brief screen time with an enjoyable performance which evokes fond memories of his turn as Henry Hill in Goodfellas (and erases the bitter aftertaste of his participation in the detestable Hannibal).

On the downside, Hackman is hamstrung by a character who spends his time sucking down coffin nails while acting like a senile old twit, making his presence of little consequence (a statement which applies to a depressingly large proportion of his roles in the last decade), and Hewitt has yet to convince me that she possesses any acting ability whatsoever. Lee, on the other hand, has provided capable support in several Kevin Smith films, but here he's reduced to playing the token nice guy in a three-ring vermin circus, and Jack's insipid personality does him no favours whatsoever. Finally, fans of Jeffrey Jones should note that he's allocated approximately thirty seconds to do his thing, which raises suspicions that he was offered a role simply so the studio could put his name on the cast list.

The challenge facing the scriptwriters (Robert Dunn, Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur) was to find a way to enable us to throw our support behind these vaguely reprehensible souls. Since the highlight of their combined resumes is Liar Liar they don’t even try, leaving us with Max the scheming she-devil, Dean the gullible criminal, Hackman the dolt, and Jack the amiable idiot, none of whom realise the error of their ways before the closing credits roll (Page does, but her supposed reformation occurs for no better reason than to service the plot). Likeable characters are not strictly necessary for a comedy, but it does mean that you'll be viewing the proceedings with a healthy dose of detachment.

The film's two hour running time is unusual for a film which qualifies as light entertainment, since even the most inventive premise is hard-pressed to maintain the required momentum for more than ninety minutes. Heartbreakers, however, benefits from the extra room to move, since the extended (and unexpected, provided you haven't seen the trailer) denouement is one of the best things about the film, and it wouldn’t have worked without the lengthy lead-in. A little pruning would not have gone astray (a scene where Hackman interviews Hewitt for a job as a maid serves no purpose whatsoever, since it's not particularly amusing and has no effect on the overall arc of events - I imagine it was included solely to enable an earlier set piece to make the cut), but too much hacking would have seen an already-lightweight effort evaporate into the ether.

As far as the comedic element goes, it's the usual hit-and-miss affair. The primary reason the much-maligned trailer makes the film appear so appalling is because its creators were forced to concentrate on the uninspired sight gags and puerile repartee, since the film's most amusing moments (Weaver attempting to sing a song in her "native" Russian, the final fate of Hackman's original maid) make little sense when divorced from the scenes which precede them. I wouldn't like to give the impression that it's a two-hour laughfest, but there's something for everyone, and the pleasing absence of toilet humour automatically earns it an appreciative nod from my direction.

For a film which promised so little, Heartbreakers is surprisingly digestible. It is by no means a comic masterwork, but a couple of enjoyable performances and an entertaining final half-hour make for a mildly-diverting ride. It's forgettable, but pleasantly so, and if your friends drag you along you won't have to kill them when it's over. Just remember to avoid the trailer, unless you want to enjoy the worst sixty seconds of the film.

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originally posted: 07/13/01 13:48:49
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell funny flick fuck the haters 4 stars
6/03/11 art THIS FLICK is SICK!!!! 1 stars
9/03/09 art IT WILL GIVE YOU HEARTBURN! 1 stars
4/19/08 art IT STINK'S 1 stars
4/13/07 David Pollastrini Hewitt is hot in this! 3 stars
4/18/06 Dk Fuuny up to Hackmans death which leaves 35 min of bordom 3 stars
3/09/06 Dk Sexy but not much else 2 stars
6/19/04 Denise Duspiva skanks 3 stars
7/11/03 Joesco Not as clever as it would like to be - Weaver is good - Hewitt barely eye candy 2 stars
5/20/03 Charles Tatum Dirty Rotten Scoundrelesses deserved an R and a half hour editing trim, Weaver's a hoot 3 stars
4/16/03 Andrew Carden Surprisingly Funny Comedy...Hackman and Weaver Are Great Together, 4 stars
4/05/03 Jack Sommersby Never really breaks into its own, but it's pleasant enough (though overlong). 3 stars
11/27/02 Tony Miller Pratfalls not worth breaking beautiful Hewitt's stride, let alone her finger. Unfunny. 2 stars
8/28/02 Mandy Seever Jennifer Love Hewwitt was made for soo much better; Weaver pretty much in character. 1 stars
7/06/02 Darlene Groetz The movie where Jennifer Love Hewitt became a zombie of the tragic wands. 2 stars
7/05/02 Jenny Tullwartz After seeing this, Jennifer, I know what you did last bummer. 2 stars
6/06/02 qtpie Loved It !! :) 5 stars
6/01/02 stud cool 5 stars
5/27/02 Nicole Meant to be light and ridiculous. Take it at face value and you will enjoy it. 4 stars
2/28/02 Alan Smithee Should have been titled the JLH t*t and @$$ show. Gene Hackman is wasted. 1 stars
12/16/01 toneely I really like all the actors in this movie, but This movie is sooo BAD!!!! 2 stars
8/30/01 Simeon Briggs Fucking great. I just want Jennifer to hold me. and Jason Lee needed more one liners 4 stars
8/29/01 Matthew Bartley Great performances all round...very welcome change from grossout stuff 4 stars
7/17/01 Erin This movie was cute nothing more nothing less 4 stars
7/15/01 Jester219 Chasing Amy's Jason Lee rules like a mofo. and JLH is my mistress, dont tell. 5 stars
7/09/01 Roy Smith JLH is sexy but her and Jason Lee are the weakest links..still really funny though. 5 stars
6/20/01 Jax I liked it. Weaver and Hackman were incredible. I love JLH. Jason Lee at his best. 4 stars
5/22/01 Eric funny as hell 5 stars
5/07/01 Kate Really really awesome!!! 5 stars
5/05/01 The Chosen One Oh boy 5 stars
4/08/01 John Lyons Besides looking great, J.L.Hewitt can really act! Wanted to see more of Hackman. 5 stars
4/02/01 Bot Tropic Ray Liotta is surprisingly memorable, & JLH is beautiful & way way underrated by all of you 5 stars
3/31/01 Natalie Nat saw it. Now she is an expert faller. lol. I thought it kicked. 5 stars
3/29/01 Wolvie Not Bad. Jennifer Love Hewitt is a hottie! Pretty funny in parts and a fairly good story. 4 stars
3/28/01 tnt hackman and weaver are hilarious..hewitt and jason lee's scenes are terrible 3 stars
3/27/01 kidrock This movie was smart and funny and Jennifer,Segourney,Ray and Gene were excellent. 5 stars
3/26/01 Joe suck 1 stars
3/25/01 Sid 6.7 A relatively mediocre broad, provocative cleavage-festival with seldom chuckles or cackles 2 stars
3/25/01 Peejay She was one of the better parts of the film, not her body. Out of the gutter now Greg. 4 stars
3/19/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Jennifer Love Huge-Tits couldn't act her way out of a wet Kleenex. 3 stars
3/19/01 Katie Young I thought that this movie was incredibly cute! It was funny, a chick-flick SEE IT! : ) 4 stars
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  23-Mar-2001 (PG-13)


  05-Jul-2001 (M)

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