The Ice Harvest

Bomb Rating: 

"The Ice Harvest" is like one of those poems you wrote when you were in 3rd grade: As every word flowed from pen to paper, your expectations rose like an aide of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay scouting an Indian casino. You imagined yourself the next Robert Frost, but then after you read your poem aloud, your classmates laughed at you. Then your teacher, unable to restrain herself, actually said that your poem sucked. You realized that the poem you once regarded as a potential example of your literary brilliance was actually a steaming pile of crap.

This movie feels like it was once aimed at a much higher target. Given that it's written by Richard Russo ("Nobody's Fool") and Robert Benton ("Kramer vs. Kramer") and directed by Chicago's Harold Ramis ("Caddyshack"), one expects it to contain more than three funny lines, but that's about all it has to offer. Curiously, those lines are spaced about 30 minutes apart, forcing viewers to imagine a conversation between the filmmakers that maybe went something like this: "Hey, we have three good lines; let's make a film."

There isn't a character in this film we haven't seen before and the story is a pointless retread of a semi-familiar theme. Mob lawyer Charlie Arglist (John Cusack) and his buddy, Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), have committed a crime. They've stolen more than $2 million from Charlie's boss, Bill Guerrard (Randy Quaid). It's a stupid, pointless crime (not unlike this movie), and Charlie is having second thoughts about it. It's Christmas Eve. It's Kansas. There's an ice storm. I'm not usually offended when a movie makes fun of Christmas, Kansas and religious people simultaneously, but somehow Ramis and crew manage to ruin this dark comedy by infusing it with the kind of yawn-inspiring boredom that could dislocate a jaw.

The filmmakers desperately want Cusack to be funny like he was in "Grosse Point Blank" and Thornton to be funny like he was in "Bad Santa," but they forget that actors aren't wind-up toys. Most of the film's best moments are heaped on an inebriated character (Oliver Platt) whose function is not unlike that of a circus clown. Cusack's Charlie broods as if Ben Stein were directing. Brooder? Brooder?

Having nowhere to go and no substance for his film, Ramis swings it toward strip-club owner Renata (Connie Nielsen) and a final showdown with Randy Quaid. The resulting confrontation is so anticlimactic and uninteresting that I thought I'd been transported into another film.

Actually, that would have been nice.

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