Bomb Rating: 

I was following two women into the theater who were commenting on the long lines for "Toy Story 2" or "The World is Not Enough." Basically, one of them said: "They put the big movies in the big theater and they stick our little art film over here." Let me just say this: Yes, this has drag queens and stroke victims and Robert De Niro and Philip Seymour Hoffman, but the day Joel Schumacher makes an "art" film is the day I watch "Batman and Robin" and "St. Elmo's Fire" back-to-back continuously until I'm forced to gouge my own eyes out with the hinge of my watch band.

Joel Schumacher seems to live to mutilate other people's ideas. "St. Elmo's Fire" rode the coattails of "About Last Night." He did a couple "Batman" sequels. Then "8mm" tried to recreate the success of "Seven." One gets the image of a man whose claim to fame is being the second person to invent the microchip and the Pokémon craze. Schumacher, desperate to cash-in on that independent cinema success, figured out what ingredients he needed and wrote a script.

Of course, the first thing you need are homosexuals. And if you can get singing homosexuals who dress like the opposite gender, that's even better. Thus Philip Seymour Hoffman's character, Rusty, is a singing drag queen. He teaches Walt Koontz (De Niro) how to sing. This wouldn't be interesting except that Walt has an affliction, which Schumacher recognizes as being the quickest way to an Oscar nomination for somebody. Walt has had a stroke. So, De Niro gets to do the acting thing by trying to keep half of his face paralyzed while he talks.

Oh yeah, Walt is also a bigot, which makes his eventual, predictable friendship with Rusty all the more unlikely, which usually gives the Academy voters that touching feeling in their heart or their groin or their big toe or wherever they get the tingle that will make them punch Schumacher's name out on the voting card. And if they give De Niro or Hoffman a nod, one of them will thank Schumacher for writing the role, which is just sort of the back door recognition I'm sure he's hoping for.

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