The Bachelor (1999)
Directed by Gary Sinyor
Cast: Chris O'Donnell, Renee Zellweger, Artie Lange, Marley Shelton, Hal Holbrook, Peter Ustinov, Edward Asner, James Cromwell, Brooke Shields, Jennifer Esposito, Stacey Edwards, Mariah Carey.
1999 101 minutes
Rated: (for mild profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 6, 1999.
If "The Bachelor" didn't have a cast full of recognizable stars, I'd almost believe it if someone told me it was filmed on a different planet, using human-looking aliens to portray the characters. A childish romantic comedy that is aimed at teenagers and adults, it is difficult to believe anyone would like the film, for it is so shoddily executed and implausibly written that it inevitably leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. And here's some advice for Chris O'Donnell: when you disappear from the movies for over two years (not since the Golden Raspberry Award Winner "Batman and Robin," and not counting your brief role in last spring's "Cookie's Fortune"), you should probably choose a film that is actually good, so you can easily regain your stature. The fact that you also produced this rubbish leads me to seriously question your reliability.
Just the premise itself is thoroughly distasteful: Jimmie Shannon (Chris O'Donnell), a 29-year-old yahoo who is terrified of commitment, finds himself searching desperately for someone to marry him before his 30th birthday after his grandfather dies and leaves him $100-million in his will if he will carry out this wish, and stay married for 10 years. Complications ensue because his birthday is one day away, and his longtime girlfriend of three years, Anne (Renee Zellweger), has just broken up with him after a disastrous proposal. Gathering up all of his girlfriends from the past, Jimmie actually hunts them down and proposes to each and every one of them, forgetting about Anne and concerned only with getting money. Of course, he's going to realize that Anne is the only one for him, and that he's been a jerk, but just from watching the film, I believe Jimmie will always be a jackass and deserves to be alone for the rest of his good-for-nothing life. That's just my opinion, though.
"The Bachelor" resembles a direct-to-video movie at almost every ill-advised turn because of its overall air of moronic silliness. Comparing the journey from bachelorhood to marriage, to a group of wild racing horses may be an inventive analogy, but in the context of this film, it falls to the ground with a big, loud "SPLAT!" Its romantic capabilities are also all there, because Chris O'Donnell and Renee Zellweger are charming performers, but O'Donnell's character is too despicable to root for, and his relationship with Zellweger too slapshot to be believable.
The screenplay by Steve Cohen is almost haphazardly bad, with its vacuous characters and repellent plot, but does manage a few fleeting glimpses of inspired humor. The scene in which Jimmie proposes to Anne at the Starlight Room is very funny, with Jimmie's reasoning for marriage being, "sh** or get off the pot." A handful of cameos (Mariah Carey, Jennifer Esposito, Stacey Edwards) as potential brides are littered throughout, but they come off as more of a missed opportunity than anything. That is, except for the vignette involving Brooke Shields, who gives the most finely tuned comedic performance in the whole film, as the money-grubbing, chain-smoking Buckley. In her quick 5-minute part, Shields sparks the film out of its comatose state, and for that, I am thankful.
Littering the rest of the curious cast are a group of veteran actors (Edward Asner, Hal Holbrook, James Cromwell, Peter Ustinov) who are there for little more than window dressing, and never develop their similar roles into diverse characters; Artie Lange (1998's "Dirty Work"), as Jimmie's best friend; and Marley Shelton (1998's "Pleasantville"), as Anne's younger sister, who gives the only likable supporting performance. Most of Zellweger's scenes are actually with Shelton, and they have a sort of chemistry that is lacking between Zellweger and O'Donnell.
The film reaches its climactic pinnacle when Jimmie finds himself being chased through San Francisco by a mob of potential brides after a story on him runs on the front page of the newspaper with the heading, "Would You Marry This Man For $100-Million?" Lifted directly from its inspiration, the 1925 Buster Keaton screwball comedy, "Seven Chances," this scene is a visual treat, but when you start to put reasoning behind it, it becomes more apparent how very stupid it really is.
At the last minute, Jimmie and Anne rekindle their flame, but one must ask why Anne would even remotely want to marry him. Renee Zellweger, so delightful in 1995's "Empire Records," 1996's "Jerry Maguire," and 1998's "One True Thing," tries out a noticeably more lighthearted film here, rather than all of the heavy movies she has made of late, but her Anne never is able to break out of just being "The Girl." Besides, Anne's IQ drops in the final fifteen minutes, as she races to find Jimmie and marry him. Why would she want to do such a thing? Jimmie proves throughout that he is a commitment-shy lunkhead, and the fact that he would even try to forget about Anne and marry someone else for the money just reveals how truly shallow a person he is. The fact of the matter is, Jimmie is a character with next to no redeeming qualities, and he and Anne finally getting married at the end signifies to me a depressing conclusion, rather than a happy one. Using some common sense, it is clear Jimmie is neither mature nor reliable enough for marriage, and Anne is headed for a miserable ten years, followed by a swift divorce.
©1999 by Dustin Putman