Wedding daze: “The Bachelor”

Bachelor_

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
November 5, 1999

1.5 stars

The premise for “The Bachelor” probably looked great on paper. Get Chris O’Donnell and Renee Zellweger to star in a romantic comedy. Throw in a plot line about a $100 million inheritance if he marries before his 30th birthday, and add in a thousand extras dressed as brides.

Voila! Instant feel-good movie of the fall, non?

Non!

In this update of Buster Keaton’s “Seven Chances,” Jimmie (O’Donnell) and Anne (Zellweger) are a couple on the brink of marriage. That is, if he can propose to her in a way that makes her feel he really wants to be her husband.

Proposal No. 1: Anne listens in disbelief as Jimmie talks of making sacrifices. Popping out an engagement ring, he says, “The upshot is, you win.” Not exactly the kind of sweet talk little girls dream about.

Proposal No. 2: Anne watches in horror as Jimmie’s facial expression says it all–he is so not ready for marriage.

Proposal No. 3: Oh, you get the picture. Jimmie and Anne love each other, but he’s not ready to settle down, and she won’t settle for less.

But then Jimmie’s eccentric grandfather (delightfully played by Peter Ustinov) dies, leaving his entire $100 million estate to his grandson. The caveat is that Jimmie has to marry by his 30th birthday–which is tomorrow–or he loses it all.

To give the movie a conscience, Jimmie’s lawyer reminds him that the will also stipulates that if he fails to find a wife–who remains married to him for 10 years, producing at least one child in the first five years, and never spending more than one night a month apart from him–the family business will be liquidated, leaving 200 employees without jobs.

Which makes you wonder what kind of sadistic old coot Grandpa was, anyhow. But that’s another story entirely–one that’s probably much more interesting than what we’re presented with here.

O’Donnell and Zellweger are highly likable, attractive actors who you want good things to happen to.  But this movie isn’t one of those things. There are too many obvious “how comes” that go unanswered. For instance, the first three years of their relationship go off without a hitch. Neither one hints at marriage or seems ready for it. So how come Jimmie feels obligated to propose to her when he obviously doesn’t want to? (Note: Proposal No. 1 occurs before Grandpa’s death.)

And when Jimmie realizes that he’d have to get married if he wanted to get that inheritance, how come he just doesn’t fess up to his perky girlfriend and say, “Hey, I know you just turned me down, but let’s forget about semantics. I love you and you love me. And my Grandpa just left me $100 million if I get married by tomorrow. Now do you want to become my wife?”

Instead, he keeps Anne in the dark and contacts his ex-girlfriends, all of whom are too moral (or selfish in the case of Brooke Shields’ Buckley) to sell themselves off for $100 million.

Yeah, right.

Jae-Ha Kim previews film and entertainment highlights Fridays on Channel 32’s noon newscast.

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