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Beetlejuice (1988)

15 Apr

beetlejuice

Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Ghostbusters” was a unique piece of work—it mixed comedy with special effects and the macabre. Now comes “Beetlejuice,” an attempt to cash in on the “supernatural comedy” subgenre, but admittedly an amusing, good-looking, eerie horror-comedy with a lot of special effects. It’s a sort-of cartoon look at the way of the afterlife, and I like the energy and originality that was put into this film.

The movie stars Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as a happily married couple named Adam and Barbara Maitland who spend vacation in their idyllic New England country home. They spend a happy life together, until they get in a deadly accident. When they return home, they realize that they no longer have reflections and find a strange book known as the handbook for the recently deceased. They realize that they are ghosts, and when they attempt to leave their house, they find themselves in a strange parallel dimension where giant sand-worms crawl under the ground. So they have nowhere to go.

Adam and Barbara’s peace is destroyed when a New York couple (Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara) and their Gothic daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) move into the house and redecorate it. As ghosts, Adam and Barbara try to scare off the unwanted guests but they can’t be seen. Desperate for help, they find Betelgeuse (pronounced “beetle juice”), a bio-exorcist who loves to scare people away, but his methods may actually be dangerous and quite deadly.

Betelgeuse is played by Michael Keaton, who is almost unrecognizable behind makeup. It’s a hilarious performance. Although, if the whole movie were about Betelgeuse, it would be a little irritating after a while. This guy is so manic that a little of this guy almost goes a long way. But it’s just so funny and he nearly stops the show.

But the movie isn’t all about that “ghost buster”—it’s about the relationship between two deceased lovers trying to cope with being dead and experiencing the most unbelievable stuff in the afterlife. When trying to scare off their new unwanted guests, they soon befriend Lydia who can see them because she’s “strange and unusual” and she can understand the weird Handbook. I like the energy and originality and gimmicks that were put into this movie. I love the way the afterlife looks, and how Tim Burton creates the illusion of an afterworld with great special effects, amazing set pieces, and dark cinematography.

Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis do terrific jobs as the couple, and Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, and Winona Ryder are no slouches either as the New York family. And then, Keaton is there to liven—or deaden—up the party with his crazed performance of Betelgeuse.

“Beetlejuice” is crazy but wonderfully so. It’s a nicely-done mixed blend of comedy and horror. I liked the casting, I liked the production design, and I also liked the visual jokes put into the scenes involving the afterworld (a badly burnt ghost is smoking a cigarette, for example). Even if it goes overkill near the end, it’s still a good deal of fun.

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Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

14 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: ****

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is one of the most ambitious, visually impressive, narratively spellbinding movies I’ve ever seen. It’s one of those movies that is just absolute magic—a movie you’ll remember for years to come and just can’t bear to see only once. It just gets better with every viewing. It’s creative to say the least and showcases some great special effects that are not just there as gimmicks, but to serve the purpose of the story.

If you’ve seen “Song of the South,” “Mary Poppins,” or “Pete’s Dragon,” you’ll notice something similar in each of those movies—blending live human actors with cartoon characters. But you never really get the impression that the cartoon characters are really there with the people and interacting with them. This is what “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” does different. This blends human actors with cartoon characters, but in this movie, they really look like they’re there. They look more three-dimensional than their two-dimensional sketches, they cast shadows, and they occupy the same space as the people. It’s unbelievable. They’re so convincingly blended into the scene with the actors, and they’re able to move around the settings of the scene because the camera doesn’t just stay in one spot to make it easy—the camera moves all over the place, following the animated characters…sort of.

“Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is shot as and takes plot elements of a 1940s thriller. But it takes place in a Hollywood that hires cartoon characters, or “toons.” Nearby is ToonTown, where every toon lives. But some are in show business and have moved to Hollywood to star in their own cartoons. Wherever you look, there’s a toon. There’s black-and-white vintage Betty Boop in a bar, upset that cartoons have turned to color. There’s Disney’s Dumbo flying outside an executive’s window. There’s a series of dancing broomsticks, occupied by a saxophone player playing their theme from “Fantasia.” And look! There’s Warner’s Daffy Duck and Disney’s Donald Duck having a piano duel! How great is that! The best thing about the cartoon characters we recognize is that we don’t just see variations of them—including Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Warner’s Bugs Bunny; the only time they’ll ever be seen together. We see them. They are the cartoons we grew up with. They’re here in this world.

There are a few newcomer toons that should be welcomed among the more popular ones (although, in this world, they are). They’re Roger Rabbit—a wacky, zany, clumsy white rabbit with a bowtie; Jessica Rabbit—Roger’s wife, who is not a rabbit but a sexy femme fatale with a seductive voice provided by an uncredited Kathleen Turner; and Baby Herman—a tough-talking midget who plays the innocent baby in the Roger Rabbit cartoons.

As the movie opens, we see one of those cartoons and it’s a true delight. Roger has to babysit Baby Herman while Mother is out shopping, and immediately gets into trouble. There’s enough cartoon slapstick humor to cause laughter for a long time. The cartoon is a masterpiece. And we see that the director Raoul had to call “Cut!” because when a refrigerator drops on Roger’s heads, little birds fly around his head when he wants “stars, not birds!” And Baby Herman walks, complaining in a Brooklyn accent and asking for a cigar—hilarious.

Anyway, what’s the story of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” Well, like I said, it’s in the style of a 1940s thriller if intersected with toons. Private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is hired to follow Jessica Rabbit from the Ink and Paint Club, where she performs as a nightclub singer, and catch in the act of cheating on her husband Roger (or in this case, playing “Pattycake”). Roger doesn’t take the news very well, and that’s why when the man who was seeing Jessica—a rich prankster named Marvin Acme (get it?)—is murdered by a toon, Roger is the prime suspect. Eddie doesn’t think much of it, since he has a prejudice against toons. You see, a toon killed his brother by dropping a piano on his head…is it wrong to say that that’s hilariously catastrophic?

But Roger finds Eddie’s office and is in desperate need of help. He didn’t commit the crime and knows that Eddie and his brother used to stand up for toons and give them justice. Nowadays, the justice system is more direct and diabolical. It’s mostly run by Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), who has found a way to kill toons—something called “the dip”; one drop burns them like acid. He and the slimy, cartoonish (haha) Weasels, who serve as his squad, are on the hunt for Roger to execute him. So Eddie decides to keep him hidden as he tries to solve the mystery, but the main problem is that Roger can’t be one place without causing a lot of attention. This proves to be a difficult task.

Perfect examples of how technologically groundbreaking this movie is are two scenes that just stand out. One is the scene in which we first see Jessica Rabbit. She really interacts with people. She squeezes Marvin Acme’s cheeks and plays around with his handkerchief, and then she takes off Eddie’s hat and shoves it right back in his face. It really looks like she’s there, doing these things. Another example is when Eddie tries to keep Roger hidden from the Weasels in his office. He and Roger are handcuffed together after a prank, and there’s no key to separate them. So Eddie hides Roger in the sink full of water, making the Weasels think Eddie’s cleaning his underwear. Roger, of course, can’t hold his breath very long (which is kind of odd, since he can’t feel pain and there’s only way to kill a toon, as the movie keeps suggesting), and panics in the water. The water splashes about, making it look like Roger is really there. How did director Robert Zemeckis and his crew do all of this? They always keep the toons in the right places and the actors look like they’ve been seeing toons for a very long time.

This is some of the best special effects I’ve ever seen. They’re far from simple. Every detail was plotted out and the result is just perfect.

Bob Hoskins does an excellent job as Eddie Valiant. He has the hardest part of the other actors—Christopher Lloyd as the villain and Joanna Cassidy as Eddie’s girlfriend—in that he interacts with the toons the most. He acts to pretty much nothing, except for a few wires that move certain things, and he has to imagine that he’s really looking at a cartoon character. He does an incredible job. Without the right credibility, it wouldn’t be convincing that there’s human interaction with toons. And Hoskins is also a great comic actor and for his character, he mixes gruffness with sincerity and gets a good amount of laughs as well.

The story goes through many turns as we get many hints of social commentary, all of which developed to the final act, in which Judge Doom (I’m not giving away that he’s the villain; you’ll know the first time you see him) has a plan to get rid of all toons as if they were secondary individuals and turn their world ToonTown into a “freeway.” There’s also a lot of inventiveness in ToonTown, seen near the end as Eddie gives chase inside. This place seems pretty cool—a whole world full of cartoon characters. It’s every kid’s dream come true. But the place is an insane, chaotic hell ride where everything is just completely nuts and even your favorite cartoon characters are…somewhat sadistic. Look at Mickey and Bugs skydiving while Eddie is free-falling—they offer him a spare parachute, and what do they give him? An inflatable tire!

From the first scene to the last, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” is a joyous, funny, delightful, inventive entertainment. It’s a ton of fun and visually remarkable. I can imagine seeing this movie a hundred times and never getting tired of it. That’s the magic of the movies that comes through with this movie.

Johnny Be Good (1988)

29 Mar

johnny-be-good

Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

What has Coach Hisler done to deserve such rotten treatment? Huh?

Here’s a nice guy that coaches football and hopes for the best for his star high school football player, wanting him to go to a better, smaller school than his brat of a star shoots for. And yet, he’s the butt of the player’s jokes and even at one point, the brat, along with his buddy, come over and seemingly asks for help in his English class, but no—it was a setup for a prank, in which pizza delivery boys bring along about 200 pizzas, and an elephant is delivered. And I’m pretty sure I remember Hare Krishnas dancing about the kitchen while the brat and buddy laugh uproariously.

The coach is the guy I’m supposed to hate? The brat is supposed to be our hero? The coach is the only likable character in this piece-of-crap, dim-witted teenage comedy “Johnny Be Good” and I don’t think it was intentional.

Wow, is this movie bad. And it’s far from funny. The laughs aren’t there, hardly any gag works, lines of dialogue are either forced or clichéd, and reality gives way to scenes that are either uncomfortable or unfunny. I have to wonder if this is a first draft. These are the people who wrote “Revenge of the Nerds,” an offbeat teenage comedy that had its share of funny moments. There’s nothing here that I remember even slightly chucking at.

Anthony Michael Hall is best-known as the teenage geek character in movies like “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club,” and “Weird Science.” I guess he took this role to keep from being typecast. Which role am I referring to? The football hero. That’s right—Anthony Michael Hall as a high school football hero. Yeah…right.

I don’t mind that Hall wants to change his image, but he is completely miscast here as Johnny (Be Good, get it?…I don’t). He’s so bland that I was wishing his SNL persona would take over, or that Robert Downey, Jr. would smack some funny into him. Indeed, Robert Downey, Jr. co-stars as Johnny’s buddy. Downey, Jr. can be very funny, but he just doesn’t have much to work with here.

I didn’t care about popular Johnny’s quest for college—from Texas to California. I didn’t care about his relationship with his girlfriend (Uma Thurman in an all too generic role). I didn’t care that he was forbidden to see her because her father’s a hard-headed cop. I just didn’t care, nor did I ever laugh.

Paul Gleason plays the aforementioned coach, and you know you’re in trouble when you care more for the supposed antagonist.

“Johnny Be Good” is a bad movie that deserves no more words.

Short Circuit 2 (1988)

28 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

This is not how it goes. Sequels are not supposed to succeed far above their original films. But that’s the case with “Short Circuit 2,” a far better movie than its predecessor “Short Circuit.” The only thing that movie had going for it was a cute robot with an appealing comic personality. The problem was it was sidelined with an idiotic plot and Steve Guttenberg. But now, with “Short Circuit 2,” the robot—now named Johnny Five—is in a movie worthy of him. Yes, I called the robot “him.” Why? Because the robot is alive. Johnny Five has a mind of its own. You might recall in the original film, he got struck by lightning and was brought to life magically.

“Short Circuit 2” also features Fisher Stevens, whom you might remember from the original film as the Indian man named Ben. He’s the one who helped Guttenberg construct Johnny Five in the first place. Ben is now selling goods on the streets of New York—in this case, he’s selling six-inch lookalikes of Johnny Five. They’re real treats to have. The attractive Sandy (Cynthia Gibb), who is a worker for a toy company, notices these little robots and is very impressed. She and Ben strike a deal—if Ben can make a thousand of these little robots by the end of the month, they will be marketed and purchased. Ben agrees, and to his reluctance, he gains assistance from a wise-cracking street hustler named Fred (Michael McKean) and gets himself an abandoned building to gain a factory to work inside. But things don’t go well and burglars keep trying to get in because there’s a tunnel under the floor of that building that may lead to a bank vault. Are you still with me?

Anyway, Johnny Five is sent in a package to Ben and Fred to help. He does a spectacular job too. But Johnny Five is always hungry for more “input” and when he realizes he’s in a city, he constantly comes out of the factory to explore. In one funny scene, he comes across a street gang and unwittingly helps them steal lots of car radios. I like the way he imitates a crazed car salesman when he shows the gang the radios he stole. You see, Johnny Five can get a lot of input from reading books in just a few mere seconds. But mostly, he just imitates what he sees on TV. This is charming. Don’t we all imitate what we see on TV every once in a while?

Of course the people in the city make fun of the robot. This is where “Short Circuit 2” gets its seriousness. Johnny Five, since he has a mind of his own, feels left out of society. He has thoughts and feelings and now he feels that as a robot, he’s not human. And nobody in the city is treating him like a human. All he wants is respect. Don’t we all?

But since this is a robot, you have to ask yourself this question—“Do you care if the creature’s life is in jeopardy?” The answer is yes. Johnny Five unwittingly helps the burglars get to the bank vault (he trusts their leader) and the leader of the burglars sees Johnny Five as a witness that can identify them. That brings us to the intense showstopping scene in which Johnny Five is being smashed by the bad guys. That scene shocked me and frightened me, so I really did care for this robot’s “life.”

“Short Circuit 2” isn’t just about that robot. The characters of Ben and Fred are actually kind of interesting. Ben is an Indian man waiting to become an American citizen and Fred is trying to get rich but he knows what’s right in the end—the refreshing thing about his character before that point is that he’s not a bad guy. Then there’s the crush Ben has with Sandy, who of course feels something for him too. There’s a funny scene where Ben is given help from Johnny Five (with Johnny Five flashing sentences on a billboard) in order to talk to Sandy on their first date.

There’s another scene I want to mention. When the burglars lock Ben and Fred up in a freezer of a Chinese restaurant, Ben has access to a phone but can’t talk on it. So he calls Sandy and uses the numbers to match tones of popular songs. Those songs work as a map for Sandy to follow and find Ben. That’s a fun scene.

“Short Circuit 2” is a much better film than the original “Short Circuit.” The filmmakers really put some thought into it, there’s a fun tone to it, and that robot is just so darn likable. It’s great to look at and funny to listen to. Voiced by Tim Blaney, the robot has an appealing personality. Johnny Five is finally in a movie that is worthy of him.

License to Drive (1988)

27 Mar

papa_cadillac_1988_2

Smith’s Verdict: **1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“License to Drive” seems like it’s going somewhere special. It has the premise of a kid failing his driving exam yet he still wants to drive. You would expect something fresh to come from this idea. But you’d be wrong. Instead, “License to Drive” gives us an entire second half of complications, out-of-control, near-death car accidents (none of which fatal but they’re still not funny), and a long chase sequence. That’s too bad too, because the first half is quite amusing.

The movie stars Corey Haim as an average teenager named Les. Like many high school students, he has a crush on the pretty girl in school—in this movie, she has the nice name of Mercedes—and really wants to drive. But of course, he isn’t focused enough in studying, and his wild, reckless best friend Dean (Corey Feldman, who co-starred with Haim in “The Lost Boys”) isn’t very motivational—“You’ve been a passenger in a car all your life—you don’t need to study.” Les does, however, have a brainy twin sister who studies very hard. When it’s time to take the test, his sister passes, but Les is unfortunate enough to fail. Even more unfortunately, he already scheduled a date with Mercedes (Heather Graham) that he certainly can’t bail on now. So Les asks (right to the camera, breaking the fourth wall and letting us know that we’re in for a different movie), “An innocent girl, a harmless drive, what could possibly go wrong?” There’s always a line like that in these movies.

I wish “License to Drive” hadn’t driven down that route, so to speak, because the first half is most enjoyable. Corey Haim plays a different character than he plays in “Lucas.” While his character in “Lucas” was more original, his character in “License to Drive” is more the same as any other teenager. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because we can identify with him as he goes through his high school problems—wanting to impress the girl, living with his family, and taking the driving exam. Haim is appealing here. Even more so are his family, with Carol Kane as the pregnant mother (I love the bit where she fixes herself a full plate of mashed potatoes with ketchup all over them and says as her teenaged kids look in disbelief, “For your information, this is exactly what I ate when I was pregnant with all of you and you turned out OK.” That’s a great line.) And Richard Masur who is a riot as Les’ overreacting (well, not really overreacting but he shouts a lot) father. Then there’s the scene in which Les takes the test. First, he must take the computer exam (kind of odd, considering he was supposed to take that long before, but oh well). We feel the pain on Les’ face as he tries to get questions right. This scene captures feelings of desperation and the want to drive. Les fails but since his twin sister passed (and with the computers conveniently crashing after Les hits the computer in frustration), he is allowed to take the driving part of the exam. This is the funniest scene in the movie. His driving instructor, played by James Avery, is a military man who uses a cup of coffee (filled to the brim) instead of a clipboard. He tells this scared kid that if that coffee spills on his pants, he fails.

Well, that’s pretty much my review of the first half of the movie, which deserves three-and-a-half stars. But then the long second half approaches us and the film has gone downhill. Les is willing to steal his grandfather’s Cadillac to take Mercedes on a date. Only problem is, he has no license. So the script calls for all sorts of incidents to occur—none of them particularly funny, which is what the main purpose is with this movie being a comedy.

It’s sad to see a movie with comic potential go downhill like this. I really liked the first half of this movie—it had insight, good humor, appealing characters, and true moments of fear of looking like an idiot while trying to impress your dream girl. But they all go through the wrong lane (OK, enough driving puns) as “License to Drive” approaches a dead end (OK, I lied).

Maybe cars themselves are not very funny. What can you do with a piece of metal and machinery that could possibly be funny? Crashes aren’t funny. Cars spinning out of control aren’t funny. Chases aren’t funny. So what can be done with cars as humor? I wish the writers of “License to Drive” took more time thinking of an answer to that question.

The Rescue (1988)

26 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

If a teenager can hack into the defense network system (“WarGames”), build his own atomic bomb (“The Manhattan Project”), and fly a jet into enemy territory to save his father (“Iron Eagle”), then why shouldn’t four teenagers and a younger kid be able to sneak into North Korea and save their Navy SEAL fathers from a Korean prison, while making little attempt to disguise themselves?

That’s the central story element of “The Rescue,” a gutsy, well-shot movie that has high spirits and a likable if unspectacular young cast. The whole idea of the movie may be preposterous and that’s most likely the word that almost every other film critic used in their negative reviews of this film. But strangely, I got into the movie. So what if it’s preposterous? So what if (spoiler) everything works out for these kids? It’s a teenage adventure movie—leave it at that and enjoy.

Four Navy SEALs stationed in South Korea are sent on a mission to destroy a disabled U.S. submarine in enemy North Korean waters. They succeed, but are captured and sent to a North Korean prison. A month passes and the imprisoned SEALs are scheduled for execution.

Teenagers Shawn Howard (Ned Vaughn) and Adrian Phillips (Christina Harnos) each have a father that is a prisoner. They use a friend’s homemade listening device to eavesdrop on a discussion of a rescue mission to go in and get the men back. But they are shocked to know that the plug has been pulled on the plan. They and the friend—Max Rothman (Marc Price, TV’s “Family Ties”), the son of the SEAL head—tell the news to rebel J.J. (Kevin Dillon), another son of a captured SEAL. J.J. comes up with the idea of stealing the government rescue plan and taking matters into their own hands. They’ll get a boat, escape the border patrol, find the mission operative, and get their fathers back. They have an unexpected ally—Shawn’s ten-year-old brother Bobby (Ian Giatti), who followed them to help.

“The Rescue” could be made as a silly kids’ movie, but it’s not dumb and it’s not boring either. A lot of that has to do with the masterful direction by Ferdinand Fairfax, who shoots with a great visual style. The climax is surprisingly well-handled, despite the preposterousness of the situation. But I felt involved—at one point, when the plane they use to escape in loses both engines and comes close to a nose dive, I even held on to my own stomach. That’s really saying something about the look of the film.

The young actors are fine and likable—even Marc Price, who was so obnoxious as the neighbor Skippy in “Family Ties,” is likable. Kevin Dillon (seen in “Platoon” and “The Blob”) is a convincing rebellious hero, Ian Giatti has a special enthusiasm that comes with the age, and Christina Harnos is spunky and has some karate moves to use on some (get this) Korean gangsters. The only problem is that their characters aren’t fully developed and neither one is given a chance to stand out.

So what if all of these kids have it easy with one too many close calls? It’s entertaining as a PG fantasy—you know nothing bad will happen to these kids, but let the direction by Ferdinand Fairfax guide you. “The Rescue” isn’t a great movie, but I liked it enough to recommend it. It’s a high-spirited teenage adventure film—deal with it.

Mystic Pizza (1988)

24 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Mystic Pizza” is a coming-of-age story featuring three young women who fall in love. It’s usually in movies like this where young people meet somebody attractive and go through many lengths to get what they want, but in “Mystic Pizza,” they don’t merely fall in love; they learn about their own standards for love. It’s a nice, well-acted movie that deals realistically with these issues, but with a certain charm that keeps it from containing a gritty feel.

The title “Mystic Pizza” refers to the local pizzeria in a fishing town called Mystic, Connecticut. The three central characters work there as waitresses—Daisy Arujo (Julia Roberts), her sister Kat (Annabeth Gish), and their friend Jojo (Lili Taylor). Their boss is the sassy but friendly Leona (Conchata Farrell), whose pizza contains a special secret sauce that has people coming for more—she won’t even tell her employers what’s in the sauce. (We never find out, either.)

The girls have their own adventures/issues with romance. As the movie begins, Jojo is about to be married to her loving boyfriend Bill (Vincent Philip D’Onofrio) when she passes out from stress right there at the altar. She loves Bill, but just isn’t ready for a big commitment, like he is. (Huh—that’s also a change in the movies. Usually, it’s the guy that won’t commit.) As the movie continues, she tries to romance Bill many times, but Bill believes that they should wait til marriage before they get physical. Would Jojo stoop so low as to marry Bill just to have sex with him? Actually, no. But she would like more passion in their relationship.

Daisy is playing pool and drinking beer at a local hangout when she notices Pretty Boy walking in and asking her to play a set with him. He’s rich, nice, handsome, and has the name Charles Gordon Windsor (Adam Storke). (Oh, and he can also shoot three dart bullseyes in a row after having shots of tequila.) He tells Daisy that he’s currently in law school, but eventually comes clean and says he was kicked out for cheating on a final. (Huh—no wonder he can shoot darts so well; he’s had time to practice.) Daisy is the most standoffish of the three women and possibly the more slutty, but she’s not dumb and can read people well. She takes a chance on this rich boy, but then she learns something she didn’t need to know about him, in a scene near the end when Charles actually stages a dramatic dinner scene with her invited to the family dinner—he accuses his family of being snobbish and actually pulls out the tablecloth from under the dishes. It’s then that Daisy notices that maybe Charles is just looking for someone to look up to him, which isn’t exactly what she needs.

Meanwhile, Kat is babysitting the daughter of a 30-year-old Yale graduate named Tim (William R. Moses). He’s a nice, smart man whom Kat falls in love with, which can cause problems because not only is he twelve years older than her, but he’s also married. The wife isn’t around, so she won’t have to worry about it until later. But she does restrain herself from expressing her feelings towards him. He starts to like her too, for her intelligence (she’s been accepted at Yale). However, by the time she comes home, she realizes she doesn’t know how to handle the situation as it is.

“Mystic Pizza” follows these three couples through a long summer where everyone would just rather not be stuck in Mystic, but you make do with what you have. Lessons are learned, certain secrets are revealed, and hearts are broken. What Kat, Daisy, and Jojo learn is that they have each other and their job at the pizzeria.

The acting is wonderful, especially by the three lead actresses. Lili Taylor displays a comic presence in the way of her odd relationship with Bill—there’s human comedy in how she reacts to certain things, like how she nearly freaks out after Bill expresses his true feelings (she comes to work three hours early, and nervously unstacks the table chairs). Julia Roberts is a true beauty and has a fierce amount of energy—watch the scene in which she tries to imitate the hitchhiking scene from “It Happened One Night”; it’s pure delight. Annabeth Gish is my favorite of the performers, portraying Kat with intelligence but also with a little vulnerability. The supporting cast is solid, but it’s Conchata Ferrell as the pizzeria owner and Louis Turenne as an uptight food critic who really shine.

“Mystic Pizza” is an interesting, nicely-handled drama with good performances and a lighthearted screenplay. It shows that love may not be easy, but at least you know what you want. It succeeds in delivering that message.