Manny & Lo

Bomb Rating: 

11-year-old Manny (Scarlett Johansson) and her 16-year-old sister, Lo (Aleksa Palladino) have run away from separate foster homes. Since Lo is pregnant and has no idea what she's going to do, they kidnap a maternity store clerk named Elaine (Mary Kay Place) in hopes of gaining her expertise.

So here's what I'm thinking: If I'm going to kidnap one of the "Big Chill" gang, I'm going to snatch Kevin Kline. First of all, he's funnier than Mary Kay Place, and second of all, that dumb-luck bastard is married to Phoebe Cates -- and we've all seen "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

The fatal mistake made by first-time director Lisa Krueger is that her whole movie teeters on the unusual actions of Elaine after her capture. She fails to recognize that Mary Kay Place could run around shooting cheese puffs out of her ass or morph into a naked Pamela Anderson Lee every time she goes to the bathroom, and it wouldn't change the fact that the structure of the film is numbingly, achingly dull.

Krueger puts far too much faith in the power of character quirkiness to save a sinking project. Consequently, her characters never break out of their thick, two-dimensional shells. Manny is the "wise beyond her years 11-year-old." Lo is the "I swear like a sailor 16-year-old." Elaine is the "very proper, but strange older person." The result is characters who are about as deep as puddles on a sidewalk -- and movie with all the emotional range of a Lithium conference.

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