- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2001

"Heartbreakers" may or may not stir nostalgic recollection of a 1984 movie of the same title. An idiosyncratic and unpredictable comedy, despite being made in Hollywood, the earlier film showcased Peter Coyote as an avant-garde artist and remains the definitive Peter Coyote cult classic.
Cult allure is unlikely to adhere to the new "Heartbreakers," a crass and formulaic sex farce that revolves around Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt as a freakishly mismatched mother-daughter team of fortune hunters.
Their preferred con: whirlwind seduction that culminates in a costly estrangement the morning after a wedding. We see it demonstrated on Ray Liotta as Dean Cumanno, a hot-car tycoon from New Jersey, in the opening reel.
Miss Hewitts Page Conners is getting restless and wants to branch out on her own. Miss Weavers Mama Max persuades her, deviously, to participate in one last double-team, aimed at Gene Hackman as a decrepit tobacco tycoon named William Tensy.
The patsy resides in Palm Beach, cultivating a little lechery while incessantly lighting up and coughing his lungs ragged.
Never an effective comic dupe in this setup, Mr. Hackman looks ghastly to a fault. He might be better suited to "Hitler: The Last Ten Days." The sickly illusion is so vivid that its difficult to relish Tensy as a figure of fun. (And how daring to single out a tobacco magnate for fearless mockery.)
The leading ladies threaten to wear out their welcomes while abusing Mr. Liottas trust in the getaway caper. Evidently, a herculean ordeal has descended on Mr. Liotta.
No sooner does he have his skull and brain mutilated in "Hannibal" than "Heartbreakers" obliges him to lug Miss Weaver down a long, long hotel corridor as a preamble to carnal frustration. What accounts for such punishments in the new century?
Within minutes of the shift to Florida, a ravenous sight gag underlines the transition: A duck is supposedly devoured by a gator.
Alas, this proves a foreshadowing in bad faith. No gators devour either Page or Max, although Miss Hewitt is advantageously dinner-plated in one interlude when she slips in the mud while taking a shortcut from swamp to beach.
Pages supporting role in Mission Tensy is ostensibly jeopardized when her hard shell starts to soften under the tender influence of Jason Lee as bar owner Jack, an easygoing nice guy.
Hes so nice that he refuses to take offense when she dishes out insults gratuitously and defensively. His generosity could make it easier for the audience to dismiss Page as obnoxious little baggage. I never stopped rooting for a stray gator to waddle in and chomp her.
What a strange package of impressions she leaves while suggesting a little girl paid to imitate a tart.
Her slim frame looks ill-suited to an oversculpted bosom and rump. Her diminutive, peanut-shaped face tends to go slack when she tries to look sad and goofy when she tries to look cheerful.
The shoulder-length, bodiless hair refuses to flip with adequate sauciness. Cant something cute and short be done with it? Miss Hewitt is clearly a project but one unlikely to mature triumphantly on the big screen.
Did someone once tell me that Miss Weaver was a comic specialist on the stage? You never would guess it from her back-to-back struggles in "Company Man" and "Heartbreakers."
The kindhearted may prefer to exit quietly and check out another title at the multiplex during the strangely grotesque scene in which Max pretends to dazzle Dean with her wedding-night lingerie. What possessed Miss Weaver to get herself into this compromising outfit at age 52?
Director David Mirkin boasts a TV resume that includes such admirable shows as "Newhart," "The Simpsons" and "The Larry Sanders Show."
His judgment and execution have been scurvier than necessary in two consecutive features. Most of the inadequacies of "Heartbreakers" were anticipated in "Romy and Micheles High School Reunion," which doted on Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino as knuckleheads.
Now Mr. Mirkin dotes on Miss Weaver and Miss Hewitt as stumblebum grifters.

One out of four stars
TITLE: "Heartbreakers"
RATING: PG-13 (Occasional profanity and persistent sexual vulgarity)
CREDITS: Directed by David Mirkin. Written by Robert Dunn, Paul Guay and Stephen Mazur. Cinematography by Dean Semler.
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes


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