I wasn't sure if Gwyneth was acting or selling Girl Scout cookies.
This is one of those stupid movies that's not actually a movie, but a series of different stories around a central theme. The reason it's stupid is that the movie admits a couple of huge flaws in the first few minutes. Because it has these three separate stories, the implication is that none of the people in any of the stories is interesting enough to be the focus of the whole movie. The other implication is that the thing that bonds them all is more important than their problems.
The thing that bonds all these people together is Karaoke. Hell, if you're going to go for karaoke as this life-affirming activity, why not really try an audience's patience and go for midget-tossing or barn animal sodomy? You know, those activities can really bring people together, too, and they're much more neglected as cinematic vehicles.
The three pairs of people in this film who revel in Karaoke are Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow) and her dad, Ricky Dean (Huey Lewis), burned-out salesman Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti) and ex-con Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher), and Billy Hannon (Scott Speedman) and Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello). They all travel from bar to bar, winning Karaoke contests until finally meeting up in Omaha, Nebraska for a big contest and a grand prize at which point the film promptly ends. I wasn't sure if Gwyneth was acting or selling Girl Scout cookies.
Since Huey Lewis isn't really an actor, this leads to some confusion. The first time we see him he's hustling some poor loser in a backwoods Karaoke bar, and I'm thinking, "Don't be an idiot, kid. That's Huey Lewis! You know, 'Hip to be Square' and all that." However, I realized it was all acting when he began singing, because the bar patrons didn't try to kill him. The film ends so melodramatically, I wondered if director Bruce "Daddy" Paltrow had pulled a couple of all-day binges watching soaps or something. Unfortunately, that's what happens when there's no real story to begin with.
To spread the word about this Duets review on Twitter.To get instant updates of Mr. Cranky reviews, subscribe to our RSS feed.