Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Lake House

Director: Alejandro Agresti
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Christopher Plummer, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Dylan Walsh
Running Time: 105 min.

Rating: PG

** 1/2 (out of ****)

For what it is, The Lake House kind of succeeds. Unfortunately, what it is isn't all that much. I love time travel movies and make it a point to see any film employing the device, knowing it can make even the dullest story exciting and interesting if executed properly. The Lake House has an incredible premise and drops the ball. It's as if the screenwriter realized he had a great idea for a movie and then just stopped, failing to invest the story with anything else, including believability or interesting supporting characters. Imagine my surprise that the romance in the movie actually works, while the time travel story doesn't.

It's 2004 and Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) just bought a beautiful glass house on stilts off of Lake Michigan. When he checks the mailbox he finds a letter from a woman claiming to be the previous owner, Dr. Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) asking him to forward any mail to her new address in Chicago. Except the house, whom Alex's famous architect father (Christopher Plummer) built, was completely uninhabited before he got there. How is this possible? You see, Kate is actually in 2006, two years into the future, and in a neat gimmick they are corresponding through time. A romance develops, but, pun intended, the timing is all wrong.

The gimmick is so neat and has so much potential that it almost kills me to have to declare that it fails, These two people do not behave like any person put in this situation would. I know if I were talking to someone in the future (even if it were just two years) I would be asking all sorts of questions about everything. Who's the President? What good movies came out? Look me up! What am I doing? The movie Frequency took this similar premise and ran with it successfully. That she doesn't even attempt to look the guy up immediately is just beyond belief, even for this type of movie. Of course she doesn't so there can be a "shocking revelation" about his whereabouts toward the end of the film. Only it's not so shocking because it's actually revealed minutes into the picture with sloppy screenwriting. We know how a romance like this ends which is absolutely fine, but to give away the exact details of how it will within the first ten minutes of the picture is a little much.

Then, there's their personal lives, which the less said about that the better, because they are two of the most boring people you're likely to meet. He's a contractor and she's a doctor, but it's amazing they can function in their jobs at all when moping around in a terminal state of depression. I know they're supposed to be unhappy with their lives until they find their true love but this went way overboard. Perhaps the movie's worst fault is it's failure to invest the supporting characters with any interesting backstory. Alex and his brother have a dying father who "only ever cared about his career" and Plummer plays it completely over the top, hamming it up like somebody accidentally gave him the script for the wrong film. Oscar nominee Aghdashloo is completely wasted in a throwaway role as Kate's boss, while Moss-Bachrach was less believable as Alex's brother than any time travel paradox the movie fed me.

This is the much heralded re-teaming of Reeves and Bullock since they first set screens on fire with 1994's Speed. Since then neither actor has really delivered on the potential they showed in that movie, though Reeves has come closer since no one ever really thought he had potential. I was watching and hoping to see flashes of the old Sandra Bullock. I realize she's older now and has to move on to more middle-aged roles, but do they have to be this dull? I have a feeling audiences still want to see her in perky, likable roles regardless of her age. This doesn't suit her even though she does the best she can with it. Reeves actually fairs much better as his laid back, wooden style really fits the character this time. He's at his best when he's not trying so hard. The good news is these two actors still have great on-screen chemistry together and the romance really works well.

There's a fantastic scene when he encounters her at a party in 2004. He knows. She doesn't. At least not yet. How he handles it is great and I wish the movie had more moments like this because there's definite sparks between these two, which is good because if not the movie would fail completely. I also liked how the house was almost like a character in the film, even though it looks like a stiff breeze would blow it over. I had real mixed feelings on this because the movie has a nice laid back tone and is actually paced very well. Anyone looking for a decent date movie could certainly do worse. With all the tools it had at it's disposal though, The Lake House could have been so much more.

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