Return to Paradise

Bomb Rating: 

I'm walking out of the theater and right behind me are two twelve-year-old boys whose first comment after sitting through what the filmmakers would like to think is a highly sophisticated moral thriller is this: "I thought Anne Heche was gay." Apparently, the kids weren't smart enough to understand this whole "acting" thing. Then again, given that Anne Heche wears her sexual orientation as if it were this year's hot new fashion trend, who can be blamed for doing a double-take when she hops into a bathtub with Vincent Vaughn and screams, "Ride me like a Tilt-a-Whirl, cowboy!" at the top of her lungs?

It also doesn't help that Beth (Heche) doesn't really have any reason to get into the bathtub with Sheriff (Vaughn). Frankly, it's pretty clear she doesn't really like the guy. She's in New York because her brother, Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix) is in a Malaysian prison about to be hanged for being caught with some hashish he, Sheriff and Tony (David Conrad) were smoking a couple of years back.

The deal is this: If Sheriff and Tony go back to Malaysia they'll each have to spend three years in prison and Lewis won't be hanged. Tony, idealistic Harvard boy that he is, agrees to go right away while Sheriff says no. So, Beth gives Sheriff a tape with Lewis' plea on it and he begins to reconsider. Then Beth scrogs him and he changes his mind in full. Call it the Bill Clinton decision-making process. It's a good thing Sheriff didn't have any close friends or else they would have given him a copy of "Midnight Express" and he would have seen the kind of scrogging for which he just bought himself a three-year ticket.

Speaking of Turkey, I doubt the Malaysian tourism board is going to be very happy about this film, unless it's planning to make "Malaysia sucks" its new advertising slogan. However, it's ridiculously absurd that Americans demand a vigorous drug war and daily executions at home, then go ape-shit when heathen foreigners decide they want to cane some American idiot-boy for breaking windows or hang another for smoking hashish. Obviously, righteous justice is only righteous if an American finger is pulling the trigger, which makes this film's cries seem somewhat insincere.

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