- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2001

As sneaky-cool as a transparently enjoyable Hollywood-made movie is ever likely to get, "One Night at McCools" takes seasonal honors as a stealth attraction. It even might surpass "Bring It On" as a dark-horse delight, although the subject matter and genres should not be confused.
An auspicious start for Further Films, Michael Douglas new production company, "McCools" enhances the joke by featuring Mr. Douglas himself in an expert performance as the most conspicuous ringer, a somewhat low-rent criminal type called Mr. Burmeister.
Encountered at a bingo parlor, he sports an outrageous pompadour, perhaps humorously exaggerated from Kirk Douglas hairstyle of 50 years ago.
Burmeister is being importuned by an anxious fellow named Randy, played by Matt Dillon, who has a tale of amorous woe to impart. The audience shares not only Randys sob story in flashback, but also a set of rival accounts.
One is confided by Paul Reiser as a lawyer named Carl to Reba McEntire as a therapist named Dr. Green. The other originates with John Goodman as a police detective, Charlie Dehling, who seeks the counsel of his brother, Richard Jenkins as a priest called Father Jimmy.
All three confessions have been contrived cleverly by screenwriter Stan Seidel (who died last summer at the age of 48, before his first produced screenplay could be realized) to overlap and then converge in an uproarious showdown. Theyre punctuated by a reprise of "YMCA," the camp anthem from "Cant Stop the Music." Randy, Carl and Charlie have a source of heartache in common: a femme fatale named Jewel, embodied by the rapidly improving Liv Tyler, now an attractive comic instrument rather than an underage and untested prop.
Without much ado, director Harald Zwart, a comic godsend by the look of things, takes full advantage of the conceptual playfulness: a modern-dress variation of "Rashomon" that emerges as a deft burlesque of the femme-fatale tradition as exemplified from approximately Barbara Stanwyck in "Double Indemnity" to Sharon Stone in "Basic Instinct."
To be fair, Jewel is a bombshell-next-door variant. Her felonious or opportunistic tendencies are softened by home-and-hearth sentiments.
Indeed, shes wistfully irresistible when talking of a dream house or displaying her dream-house scrapbook, compiled from magazine illustrations.
She is first attracted to Randy, a bartender at a St. Louis tavern called McCools, upon discovering that he owns his own place, a shabby but cozy little frame house.
While Randy and Jewel set up housekeeping on a rather precarious basis, Carl schemes to alienate the beautys affections, reasoning that he has more money and status to offer, although theres also a wife and family to finesse. The filmmakers thrive on his deviousness as an analysand, switching Jewels wardrobe in rapid succession to account for Carls different versions of how she looked when invited to a barbecue one afternoon. The occasion is embellished by a sex fantasy that seems right on the nose for Carl, plus a color-coded ensemble that mocks him wonderfully.
Charlie, summoned to McCools when a crime must be investigated, falls for Jewel at first sight, mistaking her for an even more angelic incarnation of his late wife, Teresa. The "Rashomon" conceit gets a superlative facial twist when Charlie talks of the goofy smile Jewel inspired. What we see in flashback is a tormented, lovesick grimace thats funnier than anything recognizably goofy.
Anyway, Bravo. Stan Seidel seems to have departed prematurely. His movie-wise sense of fun and formal sophistication remain in absurdly short supply.

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