dir Bruce Paltrow scr John Byrum
with Paul Giamatti, Andre Braugher, Gwyneth Paltrow, Huey Lewis, Scott Speedman, Maria Bello, Angie Dickinson, Kiersten Warren, Lochlyn Munro, Marian Seldes, Carol Alexander, Angie Phillips
Hollywood 00/US 2 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
I'm sure someone must've thought this was a good idea at the time, with its silly rom-com premise and some decent actors. But Duets is a misfire in every conceivable way; even though the ensemble cast obviously had a good time making it, we don't have much fun at all watching.

It's one of those multi-character, multi-plot narratives with separate people in their own stories working their way to a joint finale. In pairs. We have Mr Mid-life Crisis (Giamatti) going awol and picking up a hitchhiking escaped convict (Braugher). There's singing hustler father reunited awkwardly with his long-lost Vegas showgirl daughter (Paltrow and Lewis). And a hapless, good-hearted cabbie (Speedman) somehow hooks up with an ambitious slut (Bello) willing to do anything for a few bucks. What they all have in common is karaoke, and they're all on their way to the national championships in Omaha.

As usual, there's the germ of a successful film in this idea, but this isn't it. Everything is substandard, from the weak humour and lame dialog to the appallingly bad plot and uneven characters no actor (not even a recent Oscar winner) can redeem. It's written like a comedy sketch but directed like a frantic road movie, and the result is painful to watch with only brief moments of entertainment ... just like bad karaoke. The storyline is far too seedy and violent for the comedy, romance or schmaltz to work. And it has to be said that only two actors emerge with anything left of their dignity (Speedman, who never looks like he knew he was in this film, and Braugher, who's far better than the film deserved). But everyone involved should hang their heads in shame.

[15--adult themes, language, violence] 18.Oct.00
US release 25.Sep.00; UK release 17.Nov.00

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"I agree with you on the idea that the movie premise was a good one, but I disagree with every other facet of your review. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, as anyone who enjoys singing or aspires to be more than a 'shower' singer probably does, also. Although karaoke is silly and perhaps quite crass and ridiculous most places, this film is a story of how powerful music can be and what a bond it can create. I play the piano and sing, have done so all my life and there is a lot to be said about those few minutes of spotlight. I've met people from the lowest orders of society who had the most amazing and beautiful voices who will never get a glimmer of a chance to have a career in our commercialized music industry. So, from the standpoint of one who has experienced the limelight first-hand and enjoys seeing people take a chance and have a good time, I must totally disagree with your review. The actors were strong and outstanding singers and should be applauded for their performance. Thank you." --Stephen Johnson, USA 29.Jun.01

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall