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'McCool's': Good, Frothy Fun

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 27, 2001


    'One Night at McCool's' John Goodman and Paul Reiser in "One Night at McCool's." (USA)
I have a suggestion for USA Films, distributor of the sexy black comedy "One Night at McCool's": Make sure any theater that agrees to show it promises to schedule it as the second title of a double feature with "Driven," the execrably bad racing drama starring (and "written" by) Sylvester Stallone. That way, anyone still left in the theater when "McCool's" starts is guaranteed to love it as much as I did.

I can't really be sure if the movie – starring Liv Tyler as a femme fatale who wraps Matt Dillon, Paul Reiser and John Goodman around her perfectly nail-polished pinkie – is actually as entertaining as it seemed. Having just stumbled out of the Stallone abomination a few short hours earlier, a marathon of nature documentaries would at that point probably have had me in stitches. Still, I think it's a pretty good film regardless.

The first positive sign? Michael Douglas in a graying Elvis pompadour. As Mr. Burmeister, a mysterious man in a seedy Missouri bingo parlor met by Matt Dillon in the film's opening scene, Douglas is the rare movie star comfortable enough to allow himself to be upstaged by his own hair. The rug alone, in fact, is worth the price of admission.

The second good sign? Liv Tyler.

Okay. As Jewel, a pretty con artist who sets out to rob, then ends up falling for a bartender named Randy (Dillon), Tyler doesn't really have to act much – at least not much more than one gets from the standard hair-tossing shampoo spokesmodel. But boy is she easy on the eyes. Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Back to Burmeister. Randy has a story to tell him, as well as a favor to ask him, and both involve Jewel. Simultaneously, a lawyer named Carl (Paul Reiser) is telling the same story – albeit from his point of view – to his shrink (a wonderfully deadpan Reba McEntire), while across town a police detective named Dehling (John Goodman) is unburdening himself to his priest, Father Jimmy (Richard Jenkins) . . . also, as it happens, about Jewel.

She's some woman.

It seems that she and her thug boyfriend, Utah, have made a modest career out of seducing guys then burglarizing them. But when Jewel finds herself attracted to intended victim Randy (see, it's a bad idea to sleep with the mark if you're going to kill him later), the only obvious solution is for her to shoot Utah. By the way, Utah is played by former stand-up comic Andrew "Dice" Clay, using his real name, Andrew Silverstein, and almost unrecognizable under a modified samurai topknot. Are you getting the idea that hair is some kind of theme here?

Long story short: Carl (who happens to be Randy's cousin) and Detective Dehling (who's investigating Utah's death) both fall for Jewel, leading, as they say in the flack business, to "hilarious complications," all of them narrated, la "Rashomon," from three distinct points of view.

First-time feature director Harald Zwart has a real flair for farce (not to mention an apparent love of wigs), and he keeps the outrageous high jinks of the script (penned by newcomer Stan Seidel, who died last year) lively yet grounded in reality. Assisted in this by his able ensemble, Zwart knows better than to push the already way-out material further than it need go. In a wry touch, the film's climax – a shootout between Utah's twin brother Elmo and Dehling in full cop regalia, Carl in bondage gear, a jeans-clad Randy and a statue of a carved wooden Indian – is set to the Village People's party anthem "YMCA."

And what of Mr. Burmeister? Sorry, but telling would spoil the sinfully dumb fun.

"One Night at McCool's" (R, 93 minutes) – Contains obscenity, gunplay, assault and battery, sex scenes and sex-related dialogue, humor and fantasy sequences.


Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company

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