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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.95%
Worth A Look: 15.38%
Pretty Bad: 21.79%
Total Crap: 16.67%

6 reviews, 42 user ratings

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Message in a Bottle
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by Erik Childress

"Romantic Dramas Need More Work Than This Film Puts Forth"
2 stars

Message in a Bottle (**) - Thereís a reason why romantic comedies work so much better more of the time than romantic dramas. In the comedies, we pretty much know the formula and we expect the couple to get together in the end. Just look at some of the better examples (Sleepless in Seattle, the recent Youíve Got Mail, and one of my personal favorites of the genre - While You Were Sleeping) and you can see the pattern. Romantic dramas are supposed to be based a little more in reality, so all concepts of a formula should be abandoned. When they work (like The Bridges of Madison County, Untamed Heart or Living Out Loud) they really work. When they donít - you get films like Message in a Bottle, a film which is essentially the serious version of Sleepless in Seattle.

I donít care what famous recent novel it comes from, itís a bad idea. A story like Sleepless in Seattle know itís kind of a silly premise based on a romanticized ideal that truly can only work in movies. Remember the story of the teenage couple that met on the Internet? When the boy rode his bike across state lines to meet the girl, her parents had him arrested. Regardless, when a film or a book creates enough charm or interesting characters, you will grant the film its plot (See review of Sheís All That). The essential problem with this film is that the two leads truly generate no passion, certainly not enough for them to consider their actions. The forlorn Costner character isnít even told by Robin Wright Penn why sheís really tracked him down and you know that that fact is going to be the element someone in the picture which presents the false crisis where the lead couple has to break up, if only temporarily. This was a pebble in my shoe that I couldnít shake loose throughout the film and I didnít care enough about either of them to even go through the false crisis with anything but a strong case of ďI told you soĒ. The Costner character also isnít given anything interesting to say, certainly not anything that would truly suggest that this was the man sending those beautiful letters to his dead wife in the waters. Not that the character of a man continuing to grieve his long lost wife canít be interesting - I just didnít feel it worked with the plot if was given. I was much more interested in the relationship of Costner with his father, Paul Newman. It would have been a better film if it concentrated more on them. They have scenes together that spark 1000 times more than with Wright Penn. Every time Newman is on the screen, the film truly comes alive, and I kept hoping for his return every time he left. The film screams 1 Ĺ stars without him. His is the kind of funny supporting role that gets remembered at Oscar time, although it is only January and we havenít even gotten through this yearís Oscar race year. But I digress. Which brings me to something I said after the seeing the preview for this film. It is extremely convenient that such a beautiful woman like Robin Wright Penn, who does such a thorough and exhausting search to find the writer of these messages - and it turns out to be Kevin Costner. Not a bad catch for a romantic whim. What if the guy turned out to be the hairiest man alive or O.J. Simpson? And most of the problem lies with the script and direction. The screenwriter completely blows the opportunity for a payoff about the third bottled message and the ending practically comes out of left field. Say what you will about The Postman and Waterworld, but this is the real true failure of recent Kevin Costner pictures.

At the sneak preview Saturday night as several audience members sitting around me, apparently dragged in by their significant others of the female persuasion, were taking shots at it, my friend asked me how I felt about the filmís ending. I told him - ďWell, it certainly was a way to end it.Ē I wish this film could have worked and I think that a film like this could have worked, but it just goes to show you how much harder you have to work at making a romantic drama.

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originally posted: 02/16/00 09:28:37
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User Comments

10/28/09 the dork knight decent job by Newman but nothing you haven't seen before 3 stars
3/08/08 Pamela White very romantic 4 stars
10/04/07 precilla it was so amazing when i read the novel it consist of love 5 stars
7/08/06 Kyle Oh, so very boring. 2 stars
5/27/06 Sheena book is not given justice with this movie. read it rather than watch it. 2 stars
5/27/06 Carol Baker a nice little love story but too cheesy for me. 3 stars
11/24/05 me I loved the movie, pretty sad but really good 5 stars
10/03/04 shane fabuloso 5 stars
8/13/04 lisa weindorf I loved the love 4 stars
5/16/04 John really quite charming 4 stars
2/18/04 Rhonda Fields I LOVED it, could done w/o all the cursing. My favorite all time movie!! 5 stars
8/22/03 Sherlynn Cheung It was an excellent film!! 5 stars
6/27/03 Bliss 1. Nothing like the book. 2. Costner too old for the part. 3. As if... 3 stars
3/27/03 Pam be Dextrous C'mon Jack. How can a total crap movie have a saving grace? Whole cast wasted. 1 stars
3/24/03 Jack Sommersby Dullsville. Newman is film's saving grace. 1 stars
1/11/03 Desperado All the way up to the ending I was thinking great movie. Then piss-poor ending made it suck 2 stars
6/22/02 steve donaghy i love this movie every time i see it the tears start steaming down my face. 5 stars
3/17/02 FlaFan Sweet yet heartbreaking movie, with a great Costner performance. 5 stars
11/29/01 The $1.98 Pyramid C'mon! Catherine's been dead for two years! Snap out of it! 3 stars
7/04/01 TLsmooth Newman must be going crazy to take part in this week old shit of a film. 2 stars
8/03/00 Piz warm but tedious at times, Newman is killer, Great Soundtrack! 3 stars
7/13/00 Terrie Smith Tedious to say the least; Paul Newman walks away with the film.ay with 3 stars
3/12/00 "Persnickety "Jenn the ending was nothing short of pure crap, easy way out, other then that could've ben great 3 stars
2/25/00 fire-n-ice good movie to see with your man. but the ending was too sad!!!! 4 stars
2/06/00 Kyle Broflovski Oh, boo-hoo-hoo, people. Particularly lameass entry in the romantic-lead-gets-offed field. 2 stars
9/22/99 Ritt Suzanne I have always wanted to start a sailing-course; but this film has really got me started. I 4 stars
9/14/99 missy i thought it could have been a better end 3 stars
8/25/99 terence smith average film; paul newman still shines at 73 3 stars
4/13/99 Go Swans All I can say is lucky I didn't see this too late at night. The worst film this year. 1 stars
4/08/99 Big Jimmy They should combine the plot of this movie with that of RAVENOUS and see what happens 2 stars
4/05/99 Cool Thing The ending and Costner ruined a decent romance. 2 stars
3/25/99 Michael Prince True Romance and then some 5 stars
3/15/99 David Smith The movie for the most part was a good one, however the end of the movie took it all away!! 1 stars
3/04/99 Mr Showbiz Do yourself a favour and spend 2 hrs looking at scrimshaw, instead of this flick. 1 stars
3/03/99 Jerry-93 Best Love Story since *Last House on the Left*!!! 2 stars
2/27/99 Jennifer Bennett This movie was very slow, the only good thing was Paul Newman> 2 stars
2/24/99 denise ugh. Loved Paul Newman, but it was boring and the ending was really, really, really awful 1 stars
2/19/99 The Graduate Pretty straightforward, but your girlfriend will love it. 3 stars
1/25/99 Dark Horizons It's definitely a good example of a love story. Costner was actually good. 4 stars
1/24/99 Kirgo1 Excruciating! 1 stars
1/14/99 Wendy Gilbaugh I laughed out loud when I saw Costner as the mysterious message writer. Give me a break! 2 stars
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  12-Feb-1999 (PG-13)


  01-Apr-1999 (PG)

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