The Austin Chronicle

French Kiss

Rated PG-13, 111 min. Directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Starring Meg Ryan, Kevin Kline, Timothy Hutton, Jean Reno, Francois Cluzet, Susan Anbeh.

REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., May 5, 1995

Remember real cotton candy? The stuff that was freshly spun, sweet and pink, directly onto paper cones at carnivals and fairs? Full of empty calories and a dentist's nightmare, but oh, that sweet sugar rush as it dissolved on your tongue. And so it is with cotton candy movies -- those sweeter-than-sugar, lighter-than-air concoctions that make you forget your woes and leave the theatre humming or holding hands. This, clearly, is what French Kiss aims to be. And its story about a jilted woman (Ryan) who overcomes her fear of flying to wrest her fiancé (Hutton) from the sensuous clutches of a leggy mademoiselle only to discover true love with a con-artist cum aspiring vintner (Kline) apparently succeeded for many of my fellow viewers. But not for me. And I'm a sucker for the pink, sweet stuff. Take Green Card, for a not so coincidental example. Same story, really, of an uptight, control freak American woman beguiled by a scruffy French roué. It's a movie I get duped into watching every time I catch a glimpse of it on TV. Predictably preposterous and shamelessly sentimental, it works, at least for me, because of one magnificent, hilarious, fragile scene where Depardieu first appalls and then astonishes his audience. Maybe it was just Depardieu magic, maybe it's the over-the-top intonation of a real French actor that Kevin Kline was (perhaps wisely) afraid to tackle, maybe it's that a dusty collection of bottled scents and herbs cannot compare to a poignant French poem. Or maybe I just long for the style and wit of early Kasdan movies (Body Heat, The Big Chill), and can't help feeling disappointed by his subsequent efforts. Whatever the reason, French Kiss loses something in the translation. Meg Ryan does her cute and goofy thing in a role that pretty much reprises her When Harry Met Sally… character. She does shine in the picture's physical comedy -- her collision with a French pastry cart is a genuinely funny, but fleeting, moment. Kline can't quite capture that peculiarly French appeal that separates shaggy from scuzzy, but Hutton is memorable if only for the garish shirts he sports throughout the movie. What it all boils down to is that if you don't mind that artificially flavored, plastic-bagged, stale pink and purple stuff that gets passed off as cotton candy these days, you will probably like French Kiss. But if I'm going to indulge in the sweet stuff, it needs to be fresher than this.

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