Brace yourself for Melvin
Cuba Gooding Jr.
James L. Brooks
Running Time: 139 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Country: United States
Meet Melvin Udall. Hes a racist, sexist, homophobic anti-Semite whos cruel to animals, rude to his neighbours and suffers from chronic obsessive compulsive disorder. Hes also strangely likable. What a topsy-turvy world it is that we live in.
This is the movie that squared-up to Titanic for the top gongs of 1997. While it features none of its rivals OTT visuals, vomit-inducing love story or great big sinking ship, it managed to scoop both the Best Actor Oscar for Jack Nicholson as Melvin and Best Actress for Helen Hunt as the struggling single mum who discovers an unlikely new friend. I know which one I prefer.
The tale follows Melvins gradual though certainly not complete journey from social outcast to near public acceptability. When gay neighbour Simon (Greg Kinnear) has seven shades of snot beaten out of him by burglars, Melv finds himself pressurised into helping out first by looking after Simons scrawny mutt Verdell, and then by agreeing to drive him to Boston for a reunion with his ostracized parents.
Along for the ride comes Carol (Hunt), who by this stage feels obliged to help out, having seen Melvin voluntarily pay for her asthmatic sons spiralling medical bills. Not that it was an entirely selfless act on Melvins part he only wants Carols son fighting fit so that shes free to go into work and serve him his bacon and eggs every lunchtime.
Theres a sit-com feel to much of the movie, which isnt meant as a criticism by any means. If anything, that raises it above the sort of humour you find in most big screen comedies these days, and its certainly streets ahead of Nicholsons more recent attempt at squeezing laughs out of audiences in Anger Management with Adam Sandler. Theres a biting cruelty to much of the script, but theres also an underlying humanity and warmth about the way these three mismatched characters come to find themselves stuck with each others company.
Running at an hour and 20 minutes its much longer than it really needs to be, which means that after a couple of watches the DVD starts to get a little tiresome. But for a first-time viewing, if its a (fairly) recent comedy youre after, you wont do much better.
It's Got: An hilariously effeminate Cuba Gooding Jr.
It Needs: To be cut down a little in length.
DVD Extras Directors commentary, theatrical trailer, and filmographies. Not a lot, given that the director even says in his commentary that there were a lot of deleted scenes so why arent any of them on the DVD? DVD Extras Rating: 4/10
A simultaneously thoughtful and razor-sharp comedy showcase for Nicholson and Hunts talents.