Volume 93, Issue 83

Wednesday, March 8, 2000


Planet is exercise in comedic impotence

Madonna's Best Thing barely a consolation

Midler's latest sinks and swims

Angie Stone's debut glitters, Snoop's effort glides

Madonna's Best Thing barely a consolation

Photo by Ron Batzdorff
PEOPLE WERE ALWAYS MISTAKING ROBERT'S DEDICATION TO LICE AND TICK INSPECTION FOR LOVE. Rupert Everett looks deep into Madonna's hairline for predators in The Next Best Thing.

By Matt Pearson
Gazette Staff

As blasphemous as it may seem, Madonna's rendition of the Don McLean classic "American Pie" is actually music to the ears, as it signifies the end of The Next Best Thing.

Like its lead characters, this romantic comedy abruptly becomes confused over its identity and transforms into a haphazard courtroom drama.

Abbie (Madonna) is a yoga instructor in Los Angeles who sinks into despair when her boyfriend leaves her, making her wonder whether she'll ever find someone to share her life and have children with. She turns to her gay friend Robert (Rupert Everett) for advice, but mostly for some tender loving care.

After hours of drinking martinis by the pool, Abbie and Robert engage in sexual intercourse. The next morning, things become awkward and their friendship hits a silent period – a state of affairs interrupted weeks later when Abbie announces she is pregnant and wants Robert to help raise their child.

From this point, the film moves at a dizzying speed, as the audience watches Abbie and Robert move in together and raise their son, Sam. While both seem genuinely content with the situation, they each still yearn for some sort of romantic involvement.

After Abbie is swept away by a young investment banker named Ben (Benjamin Bratt), the movie takes a noticeable change in direction. As Ben becomes more involved in her life, Abbie and Robert's once strong friendship becomes tortured and they struggle to agree on the custody of Sam.

The Next Best Thing then makes a pathetic attempt at being this decade's Kramer vs. Kramer, as both Abbie and Robert fight for ownership of their son. The movie loses all perspective at this point, as both characters undergo extreme personality changes in a short period of time. When the conclusion finally comes, its lack of credibility is downright laughable.

It's difficult to tell which aspect of this movie is worse – the script or the acting. The screenplay seems so contrived and phony that one almost wishes for lactose intolerance, simply to avoid digesting such motion picture cheese. The script is so terrible, it actually borrows a line from Madonna's song, "Papa Don't Preach" and considers it a meaningful piece of dialogue.

The prize for the biggest purveyor of fromage would have to go to Madonna, hands down. The woman just can't act. Everett gives a slightly better performance due to his intuitive wit, but hopefully he will eventually tire of playing gay best friends.

This movie could have pushed the envelope in terms of how mainstream Hollywood understands the idiosyncrasies of modern gay life. Instead, it settled on being The Next Best Thing, a compromise which doesn't do anyone any favours.

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