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Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion

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I don’t know about all of you, but if my best friend from college and I had gone to high school together, we would have been B+ student versions of Romy and Michelle. Having said that, I enjoyed the characterization and the ideas behind the film, but found it a little….odd. The dialogue was sometimes devoid of any interest and the soundtrack wasn’t 80’s enough. But! With my ten year reunion looming 2 months away, and having a job and a life I could wish to be somewhat more…impressive, I found another way to identify with Romy and Michelle.

The short version is that these women were best friends in high school and are still best friends today, 10 years later, and are fairly unsuccessful by material standards. Their high school experience was as an offshoot of the normal pecking order, and they have anxieties about impressing the snobs they looked up to way back when. Needless to say, mayhem is supposed to ensue, but it doesn’t really.

It’s funny, but not laugh out loud funny, and it’s interesting, but not enthralling. It’s not a waste of money, but if you had to choose between high school reunion flicks to see in the theatre, I would again recommend Grosse Pointe Blank.

Mira Sorvino (that’s Oscar winner Mira Sorvino to you) and Lisa Kudrow are surreal in their roles but not in a bad way. Janeane Garafalo is, as always, edgy and angst ridden, and always funny. There are gratifying moments, Big Kahuna in-jokes, and every now and then, an attempt at a Message (but not in a bad way). I say to everyone, rent this movie with a high school chum.

MPAA Rating R-language
Release date 4/30/1997
Time in minutes 91
Director David Mirkin
Studio Touchstone Pictures

Comments Off on Volcano compared to Dante's Peak

Volcano compared to Dante's Peak

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To start off with, Volcano is worth more than a dollar if you saw Dante’s Peak. If you live in LA, I bet it’s worth a little more to see your city up in flames…again. The dialogue is predictable in a general action/disaster movie style, characterization is at a minimum, yadda yadda yadda. The lava looks very cool. The sound sounds very cool. The models of the various city landmark look great. Unlike Dante’s Peak, this lava actually melts stuff like plastic, rubber, and metal. Cars melt, and that is cool. However, there are plenty of silly little gaffes and “Um, why would….” type moments, but overall Volcano is what you make of it.

I had a small group together and we insisted on eating together afterward so we could tear apart the movie. Inevitable comparisons to Dante’s Peak occurred, and I will share some with you here. Dante’s Peak had a more believable couple with Pierce ‘I’m So Yummy” Brosnan and Linda “I Can be Soft and Feminine Too!” Hamilton. Volcano had an actual volcano that actually destroyed stuff, rather than just causing earthquakes, acidic water, and ash.

DP had agonizingly bad dialogue and blazingly obvious gaffes like a town meeting where they say DON’T DRINK THE WATER while imbibing sparkling ice water. Volcano had an abrupt lava eruption in the middle of downtown with only 100 casualties. DP had an actual dormant volcano coming back to life. Volcano had the La Brea tar pits with heartburn. I’m no vulcanologist….but neither were any of these people. Between these two movies I know less about Volcanos than I did before.

Classic Volcano banter: “What will come up (from the volcano)?” “Magma.” “What’s that?” “Lava.” If they need to explain to audiences who were drawn to the movie by the possibility of seeing Angelyn burned up by a Volcano, don’t you think they have an idea that Magma is that groovy hot orange stuff that melts rock? The Lava was actually quite cool, did I mention that?

I even took notes during the movie but some of them will give away too many great laughs that we had. It’s not as bad as Anaconda, though. Think of it as a ratio: Anaconda : The Relic : : Dante’s Peak : Volcano.

None of these are Oscar Winners, and so few are good popcorn movies.

Rent The Ghost and the Darkness instead – it was woefully underrated. For Volcano, go to a dollar show (or sneak in – it’s really a big screen type deal).

*Note: the original rating for both these movies was Dollar Movie; this rating has been discontinued. The closest approximation is something between Catch the Network Premiere and Catch it on HBO. Sorry kids.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 4/25/97
Time in minutes 105
Director Mick Jackson
Studio 20th Century Fox

Dante’s Peak
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 1997
Time in minutes 109
Director Roger Donaldson
Studio Universal


The Hudsucker Proxy

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This movie came and went in theatres, not helped by its weird name and lack of car chases. It’s written and directed by the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan), best known recently for Fargo, but also loved for Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink (which, by the way, I hate), and Blood Simple.

Hudsucker is their most underrated film. The story line, a fictional account of the sap that brought us the hula hoop, is almost secondary to the amazing writing and the gorgeousness of this movie. It’s an homage to Frank Kapra films (like It’s a Wonderful Life), and it has that same sentimental feel, but it also has amazingly funny, fast, brilliant moments which you just have to see to get. If you’ve seen these other Coen movies and just not gotten their sense of humor, you might want to start out easy with Raising Arizona or Fargo.

Hudsucker is not bloody like Fargo, or farcical like Arizona. It’s…classic-feeling. Tim Robbins is our hero, Norville Barnes, and a host of familiar supporting actors buoys him – notably Paul Newman. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the dame, and I will admit it took me three viewings of this movie to get used to her mannerisms and voice, but she is just right. This movie is delicious like ice cream. My friend Sam says, “You can’t write dialogue like this,” yet they did and it’s great. Rich, textured, and if you’re one of those gaffe watchers on the hunt for continuity errors, you won’t find a one, despite amazingly complicated background stuff.

The music is huge, the sets are fabulous 40’s, and the script deserves a way bigger fan base. Worth every penny.
Hudsucker Proxy redux 7/10/02

Matinee Plus Snacks

In honor of the recent death of Arthur Melin (7/8/02), the man who really invented the Hula Hoop in 1958, and the Frisbee, I am resending my Hudsucker Proxy review. Ok, I did rewrite some of it too.

This movie came and went in theatres, not helped by its weird name and lack of car chases. It’s written and directed by the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan), best known recently for Fargo, but also loved for Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, Blood Simple, and O Brother Where Art Thou. It’s about a man named Norville Barnes who accidentally set off the Hula Hoop craze after World War II, but it’s also about hubris. Released in 1994, Hudsucker was a fictionalized account of a real event told in a sort of hiccup of time. Kind of. Oh and then there is the almost Gilliamesque approach to the inner workings of Big Business. It’s an homage to Frank Kapra films (like It’s a Wonderful Life), and it has that same sentimental feel, but it also has amazingly funny, fast, brilliant moments which you just have to see to get.

Tim Robbins plays Norville Barnes, a sap who accidentally vaults his way to the top of Hudsucker Industries by spitting out an idea the board is sure will fail but takes off in a way nothing has taken off since marketing unremembered

Hudsucker is not bloody like Fargo, or farcical like Arizona. It’s…classic-feeling. A host of familiar supporting actors buoys Robbins – notably Paul Newman. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the dame, and I will admit it took me three viewings of this movie to get used to her mannerisms and voice, but she is just right. She’s got the same flat, brassy tone of all the greats of that era, but it feels strange and out of place in a modern film, despite being so “right.” This movie is delicious like ice cream. My friend Sam says, “You can’t write dialogue like this,” yet they did and it’s great. Rich, textured, and if you’re one of those gaffe watchers on the hunt for continuity errors, you won’t find a one, despite amazingly complicated background stuff.

The film is shot with razor sharp and elegant precision and beauty, painted by Carter Burwell’s portentious score and the visually lyric period details. Robbins is a delicious choice to play such a figure, making the logical ego transition of instant success, while retaining his unique sense of innocence and humor. “You know, for kids?” is all the marketing the Hula Hoop really needed to launch it into a major craze, both in the film and real life – but the movie is about much more. And it’s quite funny, in the way character studies can be funny.

As with all Coen brothers movies, Hudsucker has an angle, an edge, a line of humor few filmmakers cross. Since this film came out before Oscar darling Fargo and did not have the high profile silliness of Raising Arizona, it is frequently overlooked. However, most of the people I chat with choose this as one of their favorites. It’s more about the ridiculous nature of Big Business and the beauty of inspiration and gumption and honesty. It is also an elegant 1940’s period piece that makes fun of itself, complete with gumshoe narration by one character about another, a wiseacre reporter named Smitty (Bruce Campbell) and smart, sassy dialogue. It bears up with repeated viewings, and the bizarre dreamy/out of time sequences make more sense the more you live with them.

Viva la Hula Hoop!

MPAA Rating PG
Release date 4/24/97
Time in minutes 111
Director Joel & Ethan Coen
Studio Warner Bros

Comments Off on Chasing Amy

Chasing Amy

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Any of you who are familiar with Kevin Smith (the working director, not Kevin Smith, locally known as my boyfriend) and his work will find Chasing Amy to be his best produced film to date. It’s fun and infantile and vulgar, like Clerks (and with plenty of inside jokes for those who have seen Clerks and Mallrats), but with a really mature message and well-developed characters. I don’t want to give away the plot to those who don’t know, because ignorance would be bliss for a moviegoer, so if you don’t want it given away, skip to the next paragraph.

As you may know (or don’t mind knowing ahead of time), the main character falls in love with a lesbian. A gay friend of mine expressed disgust for this plot line, saying it trivialized homsexuality as a concept, and he felt that it implied that everyone is straight really, but we are waiting for the right member of the opposite sex. Having heard this dismissal, I went to the movie worried that it would turn out just so. I think it was handled appropriately, but I would love to hear from the 10% out there what they think!

Anyway, the dialogue (as in all Kevin Smith films) tends to be a tad overwritten (although I do know people who really talk that way spontaneously) but it’s still very sincere and enjoyable. Go see it!!! I only give the Matinee Price reservation because Smith’s directorial style may grate on some who are used to Steven Spielberg or say, Woody Allen. But it’s definitely a movie to see.

MPAA Rating R – language, sexuality
Release date 4/22/1997
Time in minutes 105
Director Kevin Smith
Studio Miramax

Comments Off on Anaconda


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OK, I didn’t expect this to be the next Alien or anything, but my GOD. I at least hoped to see some really cool snake effects or maybe be able to tell the salivating hordes out there that there was some bare female flesh. Neither exist. There is an embarrassing acting turn from Oscar Winner Jon Voight (I should have been worried when he got third billing to Ice Cube), an equally useless performance by Oscar nominee Eric Stoltz, and some truly stupid dialogue from start to finish.

To be completely fair, the locations were lovely real rain forests and the camera work was actually quite good. BUT THIS MOVIE BIT THE WANKER AND IT HAS BEEN #1 IN THE BOX OFFICE FOR TWO WEEKS RUNNING. Will wonders ever cease. Save your money and rent Living in Oblivion instead. Or SSSSSSS – at least that’s a funny snake movie.

Avoid Anaconda. If you can’t breathe, you can’t scream is the tag line. If you can’t leave, you can’t respect yourself. yuck. ugh. bleagh. ick. phooey. yarg. hork. shemp.

(Best line from my companion: “Oh no, the snake’s got a knife!”)

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 4/22/1997
Time in minutes 90
Director Luis Llosa
Studio Columbia Pictures

Comments Off on Austin Powers International Man of Mystery

Austin Powers International Man of Mystery

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Last night I saw Austin Powers with some other people and I can say that our opinions were mixed; so mixed in fact that I am inviting my counterpart, Kevin, to review this movie with me, because I don’t think one person’s biased opinion will be enough for this Mike Meyers vehicle.

Since it’s my mailing list, however, I will go first.

MIKE MYERS IS AN ATTENTION-STARVED WHINYBOY. That said, I will concede that there were elements of this movie that were enjoyable for me, but not enough to make a feature film. Gags I would have liked went on too long in new SNL style. Funny parts were quickly shunted off in favor of Myers preening and mugging and being so proud of his icky naked body.

The 60’s flavor was pretty accurately captured by the production team, including all the things that made 60’s movies so stupid, like meaningless cutaways to go-go dancers. If this were an episode of the Simpsons, reasoned Kevin, I would have been rolling on the floor. Perhaps; but the Simpsons would have done this as a parody of 60’s spy movies. This is a 90’s spy movie that stars a villian and hero actually from the 60’s, a la the Brady Bunch movies – it’s not a parody, it’s a fish out of water comedy, with a splash of homage to it. And that is why it doesn’t work.

It felt like a recent Mel Brooks movie – all the less funny and more sad because of how funny it *could* have been. Some great cameos helped, and I did generally like Myers’ turn as Dr. Evil – if he had gotten someone funny (or at least not as in love with himself) to play Austin Powers it would have been even better. But Myers love for himself is expressed by looking pleadingly at the camera after every mug and twitch and “yeahhh, baby!” as if to say, ‘That was funny, right, you think I’m funny?” At least Jim Carrey doesn’t care if you are watching him or liking him, he just goes for broke. Even gags of Jim’s that don’t work are less annoying due to their honesty.

Big huge kudos for the production design team – there are some great looking clothes and props and so forth in this mess. But, if you still think SNL is funny, by all means, run out and pay full price. I was given a ticket and I still wish I’d stayed home to watch NewsRadio.

Kevin on the other hand, laughed himself into choking fits. Here’s what he has to say: It’s groovy, baby! Don’t let this square babe lead you astray. Austin Powers is silly, stupid fun. Granted, it helps to be a fan of Mike Myers (especially since he plays two roles and seems to be naked much of the time), but this send-up of the sixties and spy movies hits most of its targets perfectly. Think of it as Laugh-In meets James Bond meets the 1990’s.

Some of the jokes are lame (often intentionally so), some gags go on a bit too long, but I found myself laughing quite loudly throughout this movie, and I’m not ashamed to admit it (even though Karina was threatening to break up with me the whole time). Best of all, despite being a product of a Saturday Night Live alumnus, the whole movie is relatively free of tedious SNL cameos (there’s only one, and he’s actually pretty funny). Check it out, baby! It’s shagadelic!

You be the judge. But don’t blame me if you pay good money for this and hate it!

* My thoughts two years later: Much better on video than in the theatre – the small screen’s turning the pretentious into the cute makes all the difference. I did break up with Kevin, but for more Important Movies. Choose your battles.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 4/22/1997
Time in minutes 88
Director Jay Roach
Studio New Line Cinema

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The Big One

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Michael Moore, the wicked genius behind Roger and Me and TV Nation, is not at 100% in The Big One. It’s very good and very entertaining – his skill for 2nd unit fill footage to add to the narrative he stumbles upon during principal photography is still sharp as a knife. He was on a book promotion tour and decided just to grab a little footage in the towns he visited and see if he came up with anything. The part that weakens the narrative (in what seemed to me an uncharacteristically self-serving manner) is the clips of him speaking at various points in a more stand-up comic style approach, rather than letting the material speak for itself. His instinctual camera crew has his eye for the big picture and captures a lot of great footage, and I wanted more of it.

He does score a major coup in being granted an interview with Nike’s CEO Brian (?) Knight. This is Moore at his finest, playing every card in his hand for the sake of art and a statement. He gets some sad stories and some happy ones, some amusing pranks and some unwitting self-humiliation on the part of some of his participants. As a recent laid-off person, I could groove on his line of the unfairness of it all, and even as I noted the irony of his commercial success aided by a big, soulless corporation, I could still feel he was on my side. He encourages all people with a jones for change and progress to get out of the basements of the Unitarian churches and to be active. His politics are not right or left so much as human.

If you are not familiar with Michael Moore, rent Roger and Me and then see this one. Whether or not you agree with him that enormously profitable companies should not reward employees by downsizing them, you have to agree with me that he has a special sense of people and images and how one voice over can make another image resonate especially strongly. I think he would have loved Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. He has a sentimental side and a lot of money and a lot of passion for what he does, and it all goes into his work – be it for pure humor, good-natured revenge (as on his show) or sheer determination in the face of something he believes is wrong. But The Big One is not his opus, it is not his Citizen Kane, it is eminently watchable but somehow replete with unironic self-promotion. But I still liked it. The cojones on that guy!

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 4/10/97
Time in minutes 96
Director Michael Moore
Studio Dog Eat Dog Films

Comments Off on The Devil's Own

The Devil's Own

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Two superstars. A lengthy politically charged plot about IRA terrorists and their human side. Two hours of excellent performances and deep character development. If you don’t know anything about the IRA, you won’t learn anything. Harrison Ford looks ready to pass the marquee stud boy mantle along to Brad Pitt, but then he leaps in and is a great hero like he always is.

I took a while deciding what I thought about this movie, because it was interesting, but at the same time, I didn’t walk away with anything. My butt was sore and I needed to go to the bathroom, but I am glad I saw it.

Some of you may have heard press on interstellar tensions on the set between Ford and Pitt, but on screen they have great chemistry. It’s fairly violent, and some of the Irish accents can get pretty deep if you aren’t used to hearing them. Some folks I have talked to (who might know better, I don’t know) said that they head Brad’s accent was in and out. I thought it was very consistent and fit him well.

This is a much shorter review because it’s one of those movies I just don’t know how I feel about. It’s definitely not a waste of time, but if you have to choose between this and something else (like Sling Blade!) maybe you could rent this later. It will not lose anything but noise and power to the small screen, but it does merit a matinee viewing.

It does not suck, it just doesn’t stick. Like Chinese Food.

MPAA Rating R for strong brutal violence, and for language.
Release date 4/8/97
Time in minutes 110
Director Alan J. Pakula
Studio Columbia Tristar

Comments Off on Grosse Pointe Blank

Grosse Pointe Blank

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This movie was everything I wanted it to be! John Cusack, guns, 80’s music, wacky character issues like, “What do you do for a living?” “I’m a professional killer.”

It’s Martin Blank’s (Cusack) 10 year high school reunion (I know I can relate) and he is a professional killer touching base with his past. Oh, yeah, but there’s also multiple contracts out on multiple heads, unresolved relationship issues with his old girlfriend, played by Minnie Driver, and guns!

It looks like the kindof movie that is done well, is great fun; if done badly, a painful mess like Get Shorty. Guess what? This one is done well! I’ve always been partial to John Cusack and if you were an eighties teen with a crush on him he is reliving a little of that Better Off Dead charm but it’s tempered by his new acting career choices where he plays more of a real grownup – this summer he will be a good-guy badass in ConAir.

Bonus points if you like music like The Violent Femmes. Bring a date or get a bunch of the guys together, it can go both ways. If you are fretting about what you will say at your next high school reunion (or if you skipped yours because you were too embarrassed to say you worked as a phone rep) then you will appreciate our hero’s position.

Pay full price and enjoy a box of Raisinettes.

Grosse Pointe Blank revisited Still great!

Maybe it’s John Cusack’s special brand of upbeat negativity, but this movie works so well! I saw it again last night with a friend who hadn’t seen it (and who, of course, loved it) and it’s just as much fun the second time around!

*Note: and, at last count, the 18th time around.

MPAA Rating R – language, violence, some sexuality
Release date 4/8/97
Time in minutes 107
Director George Armitage
Studio Hollywood Pictures

Comments Off on Liar Liar

Liar Liar

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This Friday I saw Liar Liar, a Jim Carrey comedy in which a son who misses his father makes a wish that dad (that would be Jim Carrey) can’t lie for one whole day.

The short version: Midway through the movie I already wanted to come back and see it again. Jennifer Tilly says it is “All of Me crossed with Kramer vs. Kramer.” So I hope you liked those movies because they make a great Liar Liar.

The long version: Every time I talk about a Jim Carrey movie I try to remain aware that there are slews of people out there who find him to be sophomoric, over-muggy, and stupid. If the only Carrey movie you have ever seen is the first Ace Ventura, you might have that impression. But if you’re like me and my moviegoing partner (Kevin), you let yourself laugh at Jim Carrey’s antics and curse yourself for falling for it. Each Carreysim that passes it becomes easier and easier to relax and admit I am enjoying the hell out of myself!

So, this preface is merely to say that I am working with the assumption that you already like Jim Carrey. I am becoming a bigger and bigger fan of his each film (yes, even Dumb and Dumber surprised some hoots out of me – damn me!). If you are NOT a fan of Jim Carrey, my strong recommendation would be to see Liar Liar and THEN pass judgement on his comic talent and his ability to hold a movie together with something other than his butt cheeks. His character is more mature in this movie, and most (95%) of the time he is not doing the rubberfaced diva act that turns some people off.

I ramble on because Jim Carrey is one of those actors people tend to remain negative about – if they saw something they didn’t like, and when the hype wave makes him more ubiquitous, they just wanna resist more. But to you non-believers out there, this might be the Carrey movie that breaks you. It has truly unrealistic and outlandish moments, sure, but they are fueled by his desperation. The rest of the movie (once you accept the no-lies spell) is extremely real and honest. Oh, and it’s really funny! Did I mention that part?

Whew! Now on with the actual review!

The crux of Liar Liar is that attorney Fletcher (Jim C.) is destroying his relationship with his 5 year old son by being a lying flake. By having to tell the truth all day, he undergoes a transformation – for the better of course. While on paper this sounds awfully hokey, it really works well for the movie, balancing the wacky Carrey moments with real warmth, without being gooey.

I am sure most of you have seen the previews and thought to yourself, well, I know those jokes now, why should I see the movie? I am sick to death of memorizing a gag from a preview and finding out it’s the biggest laugh of the movie, and watching what should have been a peak comic moment flop within the whole context of the film because I have seen the joke a zillion times. Liar Liar does no such injustice. The bits you see in the preview are end pieces stuck together with even funnier stuff between them than they show in the teaser. And there’s plenty more where that came from!

The previews hint at a treacly sub plot of family and an adorable child (the son’s birthday wish, tinkling music, etc.) but this child (Justin Cooper) and Maura Tierney (Audrey/mom – you would recognize her from NewsRadio) and Jim Carrey (dad) have a truly involved relationship. For you Cary Elwes fans out there (all three of you) he plays Audrey’s boyfriend.

T. Fletcher’s conflict with himself (the emotional one – you’ll have to see the movie to see the physical one!) is extremely genuine and I even misted up at points. Carrey is actually a very gifted actor whose audience doesn’t want to see him be serious. His TV movie Doing Time On Maple Drive should be rereleased so he has a chance at more opportunities than playing a guy who can…well I don’t want to give anything away, but when he goes into the courthouse bathroom, watch out for funny! No, it has nothing to do with body functions.

I tend to grow impatient with kids in movies, either because they are Hollywood style precocious or act10 years older than they should be. Fletcher’s son Max was very real, very sweet, and best of all, not trying to be as funny as the lead. It’s great watching these two together – and the more I feel for the “serious” part of the film, the more hilarious becomes Fletchers battle with himself. He isn’t *told* that he cannot tell a lie for a day – it just sort of happens. It’s as if a cosmic ventriloquist is physically manipulating his vocal cords to say “YES” even as his mouth and brain and demeanor are trying to say “NO.” (Boy it’s tempting to give something away) – the examples they give in the preview sound mean spirited rather than just sounding like enforced honesty – but he is terribly embarrassed by the words that spew out of his mouth. We like his kid as much as he does, so we feel his pain that his truth-telling contortions are causing him. Bust a gut funny is this!

The supporting players are funny (even Oscar nominee Jennifer Tilly!) and the Carrey machinations are funny, it’s all funny. The director, Tom Shadyac, used to be a stand-up comedian himself and he knows how to use the rhythm and tempo of Jim’s performance to propel the movie rather than to drag it down, SNL-style.

My vote: Full Price Feature (need a sound cue right here – how about cha-ching!)

Author note: This was my very first review, and it started me on the path to where I am now. I just wanted Jim Carrey detractors to give him a chance, and so I emailed this to a bunch of my friends, who essentially said, “keep doing it.” Thanks, guys. And thanks, Mr. Carrey.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 3/25/1997
Time in minutes 87
Director Tom Shadyac
Studio Universal