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'Bachelor': Less Than Engaging

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 5, 1999


    'The Bachelor' Chris O'Donnell has 24 hours to find a bride in "The Bachelor." (New Line)
I wish I could say more for "The Bachelor" than this: It's Hollywood romantic-caper business as usual, with enough humor to keep a nonjudgmental audience tickled while it waits for the inevitable coupling.

The chief attraction: the dueling charms of Chris O'Donnell – Mr. Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed – and Renee Zellweger, whose straight-shooting adorability has a great trajectory.

He's Jimmie Shannon. She's Anne. They've been going steady for three years. But Jimmie's too marriage-shy to commit. When his grandfather (an amusing Peter Ustinov) dies, the patriarch lays a posthumous bombshell in the videotaped will.

He's worth $100 million, he tells his grandson. Jimmie can inherit that money, provided he gets married on his 30th birthday. Jimmie is 29 years and 364 days old when he gets the news. He needs a bride by the next day.

When Anne rejects his proposal because it's clear he's not really ready, Jimmie goes to the Rolodex. But his second-tier candidates also reject him for the same reason: insincerity. In desperation, Jimmie's best friend (Artie Lange) places a front-page newspaper ad, which leads hundreds of would-be brides to chase him all over town, desperate to share the wealth. Shannon has to evade the hordes, beat the clock and get into the idea of matrimony if he wants to live richly ever after with Anne.

"The Bachelor" is based on Buster Keaton's marvelous "Seven Chances," a 1925 silent comedy that is a hallmark of early American film comedy at its finest.

Keaton's movie has the same premise: A young man, also by the name of Shannon, comes into a large inheritance ($7 million – how times have changed), but he can only reap the benefits if he gets married by the end of the following day.

The similarities end there. "The Bachelor" is all cutesy in the television sitcom sense, and it follows the incredibly tired premise about a young man's inability to commit to marriage.

But Keaton's 56-minute movie takes this commitment dilemma and literally runs with it. For most of the movie, Keaton spends his time scurrying, somersaulting and scrambling from demented packs of would-be brides. It is one of the great chase movies.

My favorite scene in "Seven Chances": Keaton, running down a hillside from those crazy brides, dislodges a few boulders. Those stones dislodge others. Eventually, he's trying to sidestep a miniature landslide, while the women continue the chase.

When Keaton spots a new army of brides awaiting him at the bottom of the hill, he turns and runs back uphill, trying to dodge the rocks flying at him.

My favorite scene in "The Bachelor" occurs when Anne has just caught the bouquet at a wedding, meaning Jimmie's bachelor days are numbered. Jimmie immediately pictures himself running alongside a pack of wild horses. A lasso shoots through the air and pulls him to the ground.

Visually, that's about as inventive as "Bachelor" gets. At that point, I found myself wondering why this remake project didn't go to Jackie Chan – Keaton's gymnastic heir apparent. Imagine Chan leaping from tall buildings and fast-moving trains to evade an army of obsessed women. Now that would be a funny movie.

THE BACHELOR (PG-13, 102 minutes) - Contains occasional strong language.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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