Thursday, December 19, 2013

Holiday Thoughts ‘13—Hi-Life (1998) *½

R, 82 min.
Director/Writer: Roger Hedden
Starring: Campbell Scott, Katrin Cartlidge, Eric Stoltz, Moira Kelly, Peter Riegert, Carlo Alban, Daryl Hannah, Charles Durning, Saundra Santiago, Tegan West, Bruce MacVittie, Michelle Durning, David Aaron Baker

I found this movie in a list of obscure “Christmas” movies. It isn’t really a Christmas movie. It just takes place in December, so there’s a good deal of holiday references. It’s also not very good. I’d call it the cinematic equivalent of a bunch of friends getting together and throwing together their own stage production just for the heck of it. Each person gets to do something he’s always wanted to do, or really likes to do. There are cliché stories and some fairly inappropriate situations considering this is supposed to be a comedy. I mean is accidentally shooting someone really a good opportunity for some humor between friends. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a little too uptight about guns.

It’s one of those hyper-link movies where several stories are told; and as they develop you discover that they are all related to each other in some way. Campbell Scott plays the same role he took on in the much better “Singles” as a bar tender who is put upon to take care of the people that he loves. His sister needs $900 for an abortion, or at least that’s what she tells him. It’s really for her boyfriend, who tells her is for his sister’s abortion when it’s really to pay off a gambling debt. So Scott’s character spends the evening tracking down debts he’s owed to come up with the money. He eventually finds himself confronted by his ex-girlfriend, who owes him the money, but he doesn’t want it from her. She also happens to be the boyfriend’s sister. The boyfriend is shadowed all evening by the muscle for his bookie, who recruits his girlfriend’s kid to rob the guy once he gets his money. Yeah, we’re getting pretty confused by now. Don’t worry; it’s delivered all too simply to get confused while watching it.

I almost feel bad coming down on this movie. It isn’t ambitious, so it’s not really the actors’ faults that it never really achieves anything. I don’t know. I laughed a couple of times, but I certainly can’t recommend it. It has this sense that it exists simply so these performers have something to do until they get to their next job. It’s kind of like the picture I posted above. It tells you nothing and it’s not a very interesting picture, but I have it there because I have to have a picture from the movie there.

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