a life more extraordinary? not so much.

a life less ordinary certainly lives up to its title, for it's a fun flick that's part road movie, part romance, and part just plain crazy. it has a great cast, an entertaining script, and the name-brand power of the writer-director-producer team that birthed trainspotting and shallow grave. but in spite of all that it has going for it, it's a good thing that it wasn't called "a life more extraordinary", because, well, it wasn't.

ewan mcgregor does a fine job as a man who is in way over his head, and his it-boy status is safely in tact. but it is cameron diaz who carries this film, and she does it with the style and strength of a woman who isn't afraid to shoot an apple off the head of a suitor. having the face and physique of a goddess helps, too. delroy lindo and holly hunter are great fun as the angels who just can't get a break in their quest to unite mcgregor and diaz in everlasting love, and hunter steals just about every scene she's in. it's clear that she's the one running the show and lindo is just along for the ride.

a quick plot summary: two angels are sent down to earth to make sure that our hero, mcgregor, and our heiress, diaz, fall in love, or they won't be allowed back "upstairs." so, through a series of wacky coincidences (which only get wackier), mcgregor loses his janitorial job to a robot, acts like a good disgruntled worker and marches into the evil chairman's office to demand his job back. security guards attack, a ruckus occurs, and mcgregor acquires a gun and shoots the chairman in the leg. he then takes the chairman's daughter, diaz, hostage, although for much of the film is is the other way around; he doesn't know the first thing about kidnapping, while diaz seems to be an expert (there is an amusing scene in a phone booth as diaz instructs mcgregor on the finer points of threatening phone calls). she plots to get a huge ransom from her father and split it between them.

there isn't really any suspense in this film, per se. it's obvious that the two are going to fall in love and really stick it to daddy. but what makes this cliched film enjoyable are the little moments, of which it could have stood a few more. once again, diaz's admirable karaoke talents (first seen in _my best friend's wedding_) are showcased in a great mid-film number that also features mcgregor getting on the mic and letting loose as the best-selling singer of all time, richie vanderloo. maury chaykin has another wonderful and tiny role as a weird backwoods guy who runs karaoke night at the local bar (remember him in my cousin vinnie as the guy who was cooking grits?). stanley tucci plays an egotistical dentist in love with diaz, tony shaloub steps in as a bartender giving advice to the lovelorn mcgregor, and dan hedaya talks directly to god.

but despite all of these great small moments, overall the film is something short of "less ordinary." danny boyle seems to borrow from many places in his direction of the piece (most notably, a tarantino-style trunk shot), which is flashy in all the right places and passable in the rest. the heaven sequences are nicely done, completely white and so bright that they seem overexposed. go see it, by all means, but don't expect the visually stimulating, pulsating, synapse-tripping trainspotting in american clothing; simply expect a sweet film with a heart that, for a change, stays in one piece.

Thu Oct 23 00:35:01 EDT 1997

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