- The Washington Times - Friday, February 2, 2001

The Christmas spirit seems to have operated in Sandra Bullock's favor: An indulgent public liked her clowning in the so-so "Miss Congeniality" well enough. That's about half as much as Mel Gibson's clowning in "What Women Want." Now we can find out if moviegoers are just as tolerant of defective farces that could be mistaken for Sandra Bullock discards.

Last weekend's entry was "The Wedding Planner," starring Jennifer Lopez. This weekend's entry is "Head Over Heels," with Monica Potter as a lovelorn waif who falls in with a nest of aspiring supermodels in New York City as a preamble to falling for Freddie Prinze Jr., a fashion exec who usually conceals nothing through the windows of his neighboring apartment. Instantly susceptible to infatuation, the heroine is then instantly susceptible to misapprehension: She mistakes her dreamboat for a murderer, of all wacky and implausible things.

The romantic and murder mystery runarounds that handcuff a would-be jocular director, Mark Waters, seem far less likely to cause a stir than a pair of gross-out bathroom gags involving excrement.

One tends to ascribe brainstorms this filthy to the authors of the original screenplay, John J. Strauss and Ed Decter, who first attracted notice when the Farrelly Brothers turned their script for "There's Something About Mary" into a monster hit. For some reason, a second team was hired to revamp "Head Over Heels," perhaps toning it down to assure a whimsical PG-13 rating.

Miss Potter narrates the absurdly triumphant misadventures of her character, art restorer Amanda Pierce. Indeed, she takes us back to youthful insecurities in Grinnell, Iowa, whose residents probably didn't realize that Hollywood was about to single them out for gratuitous contempt.

Amanda recalls being deceived by a high school prom date who neglected her to neck with another guy. She herself is reluctant to neck with a frisky lesbian named Lisa (China Chow), a co-worker at the Metropolitan Museum, even after a New York boyfriend proves a cad. We say hello and goodbye to this specimen when Amanda finds him sharing their bed with another girl.

Amanda meets her next source of heartache, Mr. Prinze as Jim Winston, when his Great Dane, called Hamlet, knocks her down on the street. Answering an ad for a new roomie, she becomes the pet of a quartet of models impersonated by Sarah O'Hare, Shalom Harlow, Ivana Milicevic and Tomiko Fraser.

Coincidentally, their apartment windows command a panoramic and incriminating view of Jim Winston's place. Although none witnesses the suspicious event that shocks Amanda, they like the idea of playing amateur sleuths. Without that weakness, they could never walk right into the movie's smelliest rabble-rousing jokes. So it's not as if they didn't ask for the friendly abuse.

The nominal mystery surrounding Jim's guilt or innocence is feeble, but another element of the plot lends itself to genuine, idly amusing suspense until the denouement. It even lends itself to side bets, perhaps the only reason to tolerate "Head Over Heels" for almost 90 minutes. Which of the models will end up as Lisa's new girlfriend?

1/2 star out of four

TITLE: "Head Over Heels"

RATING: PG-13 (Systematic prurient and bathroom humor, including two elaborate sight gags about excrement; frequent sexual vulgarity; interludes of violence in a mostly facetious context)

CREDITS: Directed by Mark Waters. Screenplay by Ron Burch and David Kidd, derived from an earlier script by John J. Strauss and Ed Decter.

RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes

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