By Alan Scherstuhl
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Carolina Del Busto
By Amy Nicholson
By Simon Abrams
By Kevin Dilmore
By New Times
By Amy Nicholson
The film, the original and far superior title which was Cop Tips Waitress $2M, is a comedy about common decency. Charlie doesn't make his gesture to Yvonne through clenched teeth; his only worry about it is that it'll get him in Dutch with Muriel. He realizes that $2 million and keeping a promise makes you richer than $4 million and breaking one. Apparently, this attitude is now enough to qualify one as an eccentric--at one point, when Charlie remarked that anyone would have done what he did, the audience with whom I saw the film groaned at his naivetā.
As long as the spirit of Charlie's generosity pervades the picture, Bergman is able to maintain the atmosphere of populism without any undue schmaltziness. He cuts it close by showing Charlie playing stickball in the street with the neighborhood kids, but at least he doesn't milk the scene too much. The directorial touch with most of the actors is right on the money--Wendell Pierce is a delight as Charlie's partner--and Bergman deftly brings off effects like the weaving of a Greek choruslike narrator (Isaac Hayes) in and out of the action. But when the script (based on true events), by Jane Anderson, requires Muriel to turn into a dragon-lady villainess who takes Charlie to divorce court to attach his gift to Yvonne, the movie's charm dissolves quickly. Bergman starts pushing the decency of Charlie and Yvonne--which, until then, had not been self-conscious--in our faces, to the point of piety.
Until the picture makes this unhappy turn, Perez is quite funny, turning her lines into her customary trademark weirdness. Part of what makes it disconcerting when she turns nasty late in the film is that Perez plays her materialistic revelry early on with so much zest that it isn't entirely unappealing. Fonda's role is the least rich, as written--she's just the Girl Next Door with the Heart of Gold, more waiflike than usual--but she gives a heartfelt performance, her best so far. As for Cage, the part of Charlie marks a nice change for this first-rate star whose specialty is playing comically hangdog hunks. He's excellent at it, but it's good, for a change, to see him lighten up and smile.
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