The Gingerbread Man

Bomb Rating: 

This film has hardly been publicized at all, and yet the advance word on it has been nothing short of abysmal. As I understand it, director Robert ("Short Cuts") Altman finished the film and did a test screening that went so poorly that the Dolby sound system had to be stretched to its limit to drown out the screams and moans of the audience. As a result, the studio took the film away from him (bad Robert!), recut it and quietly did another, limited screening outside of L.A. for a group of eager movie fans at San Diego's "Heaven's Gate" ranch. As you may have read, that screening didn't go so well either, so the studio gave the film back to Altman, who recut it into the final version available today at theaters (at last count, two theaters).

The level of stupidity evidenced here makes one wonder how any of these studio people can take a crap without falling in the toilet. Unless this is all some big publicity stunt -- which is unlikely given the limited release -- the low test-screening scores couldn't have been helped if Mr. Rogers edited the film. The damn thing is just a big downer, and it isn't particularly subtle about it.

Like the hurricane that is bearing down on Savannah, Georgia, the past of lawyer Rick Magruder (Kenneth Branagh) is bearing down on him. Given to bouts of womanizing and general obnoxious behavior, Magruder's roll in the hay with a cute waitress (Embeth Daviditz) brings his world crashing down. The woman has a nutty father (Robert Duvall), and Magruder soon finds himself embroiled in a life or death situation.

Going into this film, my impression was that it would be something original, given that Altman was directing and it was the first story John Grisham had written directly for the screen. Flinging his metaphors like cream pies, Altman proves that swimming in the mainstream may not be as simple as it looks. "The Gingerbread Man" is wet, slow and uninspired, which may be good characteristics in a Southern bride, but make this movie an unmitigated disaster.

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