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'Fools Rush In': Ay Caramba!

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 14, 1997

Like his latte-lapping TV "Friends," Matthew Perry proves no match for the demands of romantic movie stardom -- much less those of sizzling Salma Hayek, his leading lady in "Fools Rush In." Perry's case of the big-screen blahs, however, is the least of this contrived, cliched, slightly offensive comedy's problems.

Though allegedly based on the courtship of producers Doug Draizin and Anna Maria Davis, the film's premise harks back to the stilted 1967 melodrama "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." In this embarrassing variation, Alex Whitman (Perry), a career-oriented Brahmin, has trouble adjusting to the cultural dynamism of his Mexican American inamorata. This is our early warning that the road ahead is strewn with Chiquita banana peels.

Isabel Fuentes (Hayek), a curvy, caring Chicana, couldn't be much more of a cliche: A devout Catholic with a taste for spicy foods and colorful decor, Isabel has passion to melt the lapsed Presbyterian's Slurpee-like reserve. But there's soon trouble in paradise.

Alex, who likes his walls as white as his Pilgrim forebears' starched bibs, is aghast when he discovers that Isabel has covered them with colorful paint and hung them with huge crucifixes. Ai-yi-yi-yi-yi!

Ricky and Lucy Ricardo would have played the scene for laughs without losing sight of its underlying pathos, but under the tentative direction of Andy Tennant ("It Takes Two" and TV's "The Wonder Years"), Perry manages a wan smile and Hayek a moment of confusion. When a scene peters out or the pace lags, Tennant just jacks up the volume on the soundtrack, a melange of mariachi bands, Miami beat and, since the setting is Vegas, Elvis hits.

Isabel, a photographer at Caesars Palace, and Alex, a New Yorker in town for a few months to oversee a construction site, meet while standing in a line for the restroom at a Mexican restaurant. The two subsequently spend the night together, whereupon the condom conveniently springs a leak and three months later, Isabel returns to Alex's stoop with news of her pregnancy.

Though she doesn't expect him to marry her or support their child, he insists on doing the right thing and whisks her off to a quickie wedding chapel, where she is given away by an Elvis impersonator. Alas, neither her family (large, loud, emotionally volatile) nor his family (small, stiff and subdued) approves.

For that matter, neither does the audience because Alex, a liar and a wimp, repeatedly proves he doesn't deserve the glorious Isabel. He doesn't tell his parents that she's his wife for fear they'll disapprove of her skin tone. When they eventually show up on his doorstep, they mistake the humiliated Isabel for his cleaning woman. It just gets worse from there.

Movies don't come much lamer than "Fools Rush In," but Perry, like his sitcom co-stars David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc (who respectively bombed in "Pallbearer" and "Ed"), doesn't seem to be all that discriminating when it comes to starring vehicles. "Friends" rush in where even fools would fear to tread.

Fools Rush In is rated PG-13 for strong language.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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