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By Ted Baldwin

The Next Best Thing

Reviewed:03/21/00

Take one gay landscape architect and one fag hag - what do you get? Whatever this crap is.

The day they stop taking the audience for fools will be the day a great gay character is born.

So poorly defined and executed I could not bear to even see what the tagline was, so I modified one from Deuce Bigalow---

He's very good looking. But when the lights go out...he's still very good looking - she's a bore.
FIVE POSSIBLE

Why two? Well, I didn't walk out - though I started to. For Rupert's stab at Madonna, and being a dad on screen, I painted a happy little sperm in a faux Santa Fe motif, seeking Madonna's egg. She's having another kid for real in September...

     There are some things in life so awful that they cannot be described in words. No such luck here. It is plenty bad and there is plenty to say.

     Where do we begin?

     Many problems suffuse this flick, not the least of which is its blatant assumption that just because they write a gay character into the lead, it automatically generates support and interest in the gay community. It is almost like they think they own gay people. What am I thinking? They do. Apparently the community can be bought for a kind word and a little attention but hopefully this will help wake them up to the real consequences of being cheap.

     Madonna plays a distracted yoga instructor in this dram-edy, and poor, long suffering Rupert Everett does his time as an accidental dad. Saddled with the responsibility of making babies, Rupert, a very solid in-the-loop gay no-questions-about-it man, decides to be daddy (but not husband) to the expectant mom. What follows is sappy crap right up to the moment she decides to steal the baby away and go live with her Benjamin Bratt Boyfriend. Court case ensues - merriment for all.

     Biggest missed opportunity? Madonna and Bratt inferring to the waiter they are expecting Harrison Ford so they can get a table in a pissposh restaurant (and then not getting Ford to do the cameo in the film.) That alone would have been worth the price of submission.

     So what is this about? Nothing really, unless you count a gay guy getting screwed without even being kissed as something original.

     At the very end of the film, they use three title cards to tell what finally happens to the characters. (Thank God this precludes a sequel!) I am willing to bet the film tested so poorly they had to ask people what they wanted to see, then wrote those stupid tags to try and make everyone think they saw a movie they liked. I would have puked just to make a statement but the one other person at the showing had already left - and what is the sound of a tree falling in the forest if there is no one to hear? Retch.

     At one point in the film the dialog (?) was so terrible I actually guffawed out loud for its preposterousnessity. This could have been so good with a little real conflict and proper staging. And some chemistry. But they went for the easy money every time.

     Perhaps the most memorable "correct" line in this interminably stuffed film is "suburban assault vehicle" used by an old queen (in their words) to describe soccer moms with one hand on a bottle and one holding a wet diaper charging through downtown LA. This haughty scornfulness of course is aimed against SUV's, those unsafe-at-any-speed wannabes shortly to take the rap for destroying our environment, killing and maiming innocent people in less sturdy vehicles, and generally looking like obvious symbols of excess. Accompanying this comment was the smug in-the-know look from every elitistic member of the dinner party - how chic to be correct! This, for me, is the signature line from this film, and the one I will cherish for its ostentatiousness. It is also perfect because it has nothing to do with the balance of the film.

     Rupert Everett does not do camp well, and they try to force it from him. It was not needed for the role, but Hey! We Have To Be Able To Tell He Is Really A Gay Man So Put That In The Script. Hell, the first time he does not look at Madonna's tits you know he is gay! Come on! I am sure, that as a gay man, he is fully versed in the camp regimen- but I also imagine for him it is a really contextual and personal thing among friends and out of the professional spotlight. He did not show it on the screen. Instead it "came out" lame, forced and unfunny. Nathan Lane would have had trouble with those lines.

     As best friends he and Madonna were a total wash. I didn't like their relationship one bit. They never clicked, and when it came down to the betrayal - she was not convincing. She never quite got past the part about using Rupert to meet her needs - and that is what it all boils down to. She has needs, he is convenient, she takes off. She wants to get laid - he is convenient. She needs a dad for her kid - Welcome Home Honey! She falls for a rich money whiz - Bye Babe, Use You Later! Who does she think she is? Evita Peron?

Searching and rooting around for more evil things to say about this slice-of-strife bilepic, it finally occurred to me to look at the stereotypes involved.
  1. Gay Landscape architect (who is gay - did I mention his "preference"?
  2. Aging biological-clock-ticking yoga-practicing best-friend-making romance-sublimating baby-making in-fear-living secret-keeping conclusion-to-jumping feelings-on-shoulder-wearing preemptive-strike-making who-gets-the-child-compromising roast-beast-spurning female lead.
  3. Pithy, wise and practical young friend with AIDS.
  4. Unreliable heterosexual musician.
  5. Dope smoking rappers with attitudes (just bit parts).
  6. Rich older gay man with fussy house.
  7. Rich older boyfriend with collection of rare gowns in fussy house.
  8. Rich, athletic, out of towner boyfriend.
  9. Wise, enduring child who becomes pawn in game of life.
  10. Doctor boyfriend who has to go to the hospital right in the middle of a date.
  11. Rough-hewn Hispanic landscape employees.
  12. All-loving and understanding Mom.
  13. Weirded-out uncomfortable and not-understanding Dad who still uses the word "queer" and who has no confidence in his gay son.
  14. Mom the family peacemaker.
  15. Female attorney with low confidence level.
  16. Male attorney with win-at-all-costs attitude.
  17. Judge who is sympathetic but has to uphold "the laws of the State of California".
  18. Dumb blond female friend.
  19. Gaggle of other female friends necessary to report all details to.
  20. Gaggle of gay male friends necessary to report all details to.
  21. Snotty restaurant people.
  22. No Harrison Ford.
Don't get me wrong, stereotypes can be fun, and in the right hands, a safe and sane expression of ideas but - in the wrong hands - they can be deadly dull.

     In essence, she does to him what she complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains and complains about men doing to her; she abandons him.

     It is clearly his problem though - for trusting her, believing in her, being a good father, and doing right by the child...never mind that it is not convenient for her. But this conflict actually made for a few good moments in the film. It might have played better as a drama...

     Moral of the tale? All people are louses. Except parents, gay friends with aids, moms, and you get the drift....except when it is convenient for the screentyper.

     Neil Patrick Harris is very good as a friend to Rupert, but his character has nothing to do except say atta boy and go-get-'em. The son is well played, but not reason enough to see it. And what are those scars on Bratt's chest? Weird. Almost a reason to see it, if you like that sort of thing. Like the scars on Richard Harris in "A Man Called Horse" when he was pierced and lifted to the ceiling by the {Indians}. Almost. And when did Madonna get to be so old looking?

Nothing here. Don't look here. I mean it. Stop. OK.

     Legal tip? Marry the person you intend to father a child with to get your legal rights straight, then hold on for dear life.

I did not even look for a website.

Go to www.imdb.com if you want to know more.

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