Mr. Wrong

1996, PG-13, 92 min. Directed by Nick Castle. Starring Ellen Degeneres, Bill Pullman, Joan Cusack, Joan Plowright, Dean Stockwell, Ellen Cleghorne, John Livingston, Robert Goulet.

REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., Feb. 23, 1996

Any movie that has the word “wrong” in the title should be very, very careful to get things right. The makers of this movie were not careful. Mr. Wrong follows the tribulations of career woman Martha Alston (DeGeneres), whose romantic life (or lack thereof) comes under scrutiny when her younger sister gets married. After a disastrous Valentine's Day blind date with a Ken doll look-alike (and think-alike), Martha has a chance encounter with Whitman Crawford (Pullman), a handsome, sensitive, rich, romantic, Jaguar convertible-driving poet. Sparks fly, flowers are delivered by the dozens, and Martha falls head over heels. It's too good to be true. Literally. For Whitman falls not much short of being a psychopath, a trust-funded lunatic whose idea of a really good time is stealing beer, then throwing the cans at old people, and whose way of proving his love is to break his own finger. This could, I suppose, be funny if the writing were good, but it's not and neither is the movie. Oh, it has a moment or two. Martha's sophomoric, who's-got-the-last-word battle with her secretary is funny, but fleeting. Joan Cusack, likewise, has a few funny lines, but her turn as Whitman's Amazonian, jealous ex-lover, Inga is too big, and too loud -- the wacko overwhelms the wacky and the comedy gets lost in the melee. DeGeneres is likable, indeed, on television, where her twitchy, eye-rolling goofiness is confined by the small screen. But magnified by the big screen, it's distracting. She is perfectly suited to playing friendly, quirky characters, but she is simply not accomplished enough an actress to play the love scenes. Even before the fairy tale is fully fractured, its romance is an uneasy one. Once Whitman reveals his inner Mr. Wrong, the movie kicks into weirdness hyper-drive, with odd camera angles, and gun-toting children, and lots of mugging. Trouble is, we saw it all coming eons before and the weirdness, rather than being evocative, seems an extraneous affectation. Meant to be a funny, edgy, anti-romance, Mr. Wrong just can't get much right.

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