In its heart, "Green Card" is "Lady and the Tramp" with people. The latest in a series of fizzy romantic romps from Disney, the movie happily marries the purebred polish of Andie MacDowell with the scruffy savoir-faire of Gerard Depardieu, and before you can say "curb your chien," you've got ooh-la-la.
She's a society gardener who wants an apartment with a greenhouse, and he's a homeless composer who needs a job and a green card. Though they've never met, a mutual friend arranges a marriage of convenience so that she gets the apartment -- which was available only to a married couple -- and he gets the green card. And that would be that, but for an immigration service investigation that brings them together again for a tantalizingly topsy-turvy game of falling in love with love.
Of course, they are as incompatible as the components of the plot are, how you say, predictable. But it matters not one whit, given the leads' obvious attraction and copious charms. She is an earnest decaf drinker, he's a carefree rogue with a preference for thick, rich espresso. It's beyond Gershwin. She says french fries -- which of course she would never eat, too greasy; and he says pommes frites, which he has clearly wolfed down by the bulk bag. "Oink," he says. "I am ah beeg peeg."
Not many leading men can win hearts imitating porkers, but Depardieu is equal parts silk purse and sow's ear, humble and hulking, tough but vulnerable, a sort of Hoss Cartwright au jus. This first major English-language role was expressly tailored for Depardieu by producer-director-writer Peter Weir, who somehow pegged him for the part when he saw the actor in "Danton." But then the flexible Depardieu has played everything from a gay cat burglar to a mad priest convincingly and has no trouble whatsoever playing a big old French guy.
MacDowell, lanky and cranky from nibbling bird food, learns to appreciate butter-laden gravies and the other good things in life thanks to her new husband. To prepare for an immigration service interview, they spend the weekend together, cribbing the details of each other's life. "Why did you fall in love with me?" she asks. He pretends to search for a reason. "Because I began to hear music again," he whispers.
Like "Ghost" and "Pretty Woman," this romance is blissfully dependent on our staying good and starry-eyed, seduced by the charisma of the leads. And we do, despite its lackadaisical pace and disappointing ending. Don't play coy when it comes to girl gets boy, M. Weir. If we have watched two hours of will they or won't they, by golly, we want to see whether they do or they don't.
Still, it's a tail-wagger.
Green Card, at area theaters, is rated PG-13.