Life as a House

Bomb Rating: 

As a director, Irwin ("The Net") Winkler hasn't even made a passable movie yet, much a less a good one. This sappy Kleenex-fest doesn't help his cause. Just for the record, I didn't cry during this one. In fact, I didn't even come close. I did read a review at about how an entire audience wept. Just for the record, that's because those people were drugged by the studio.

Why cry over George (Kevin Kline) when you know he's going to die at the end of the movie? First of all, George isn't a real person, he's an actor. The director and the screenwriter put him there so he could die. He's just serving his purpose. He's little more than a prop.

Since George has been a crappy father and a crappy person, he invites his crappy kid, Sam (Hayden Christensen), to spend the summer with him and build a house. Since he's dying, Sam is hopeful that this experience will uncrappify his entire wasted life. Naturally, he doesn't tell anyone about his condition and we spend the whole movie wondering when Sam, George's ex-wife Robin (Kristin Scott Thomas), and everyone else who befriends the ever-cheerful George will find out. Part of the challenge of building this house, incidentally, is developing a relationship with Sam, who's a pierced, drug-addicted freak, but who naturally comes to love his father because if he didn't, George would die utterly alone and nobody wants to watch that except me.

Fortunately for Sam, "Life as a House" turns into "American Beauty" about three-fourths of the way through. Where is this suburban paradise where cancer-ridden fathers bond with their sons, where gorgeous teenage girls (Jenna Malone) just get naked and jump in the shower with you, and where unbelievably fit and sexy fifty-year-old women (Mary Steenburgen) give sex lessons to the teenage boys? (Mary is now officially typecast, having done the same thing in "Lawn Dogs.") If this is what building houses is like, consider me a lifetime member of Habitat for Humanity.

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