Whole Ten Yards, The (United States, 2004)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

I might have felt sad about what director Howard Deutch and screenwriter George Gallo have done to the characters from The Whole Nine Yards if I cared about them in the first place. The problem with a movie like Jonathan Lynn's 2000 noir comedy is that it rarely inspires more than cursory interest (its final box office tally was under $60 million - solid numbers, but far from blockbuster level). The word "unnecessary" seems understated in describing The Whole Ten Yards, a movie whose existence probably excited only those who received a paycheck for participating.

What can I say about a movie in which the chickens are more lively than the human cast? Where a sense of thinly-veiled desperation permeates every scene? ("Please laugh! Pleeeeeaaaaseee!") Are we supposed to be amused by the image of Bruce Willis in fuzzy slippers and an apron? Are Matthew Perry's lame slapstick antics intended to send us into convulsions of laughter? And is the idea for us to figure out the gist of the plot even though huge chunks of footage have been edited out? It's bad enough that The Whole Ten Yards isn't funny, but it's not coherent, either. Not that the storyline would pass muster for anything more high-browed than a TV sitcom. Ditto for the acting, directing, and pretty much everything else that appears on screen.

The Whole Ten Yards assumes that the viewer has some familiarity with the first movie. All the significant players except Rosanna Arquette have returned (we can be thankful for small favors). Bruce Willis once again plays notorious killer Jimmy Tudeski, who's now living in obscurity with his wife, Jill (Amanda Peet). The two are having marital problems related to (a) Jimmy's erectile dysfunction, (b) Jill's inability to fulfill her lifelong ambition of becoming a contract killer, and (c) Jimmy's apparent metamorphosis into Martha Stewart. Meanwhile, in California, Oz Oseransky (Perry), comes home from work one day to discover that goons have kidnapped his wife, Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge). They are lorded over by Lazlo Gogolak (Kevin Pollak), the father of the mob boss Oz and Jimmy eliminated in the previous movie. Now, in order to save Cynthia, the dentist tracks down Jimmy and convinces his old pal to give up cooking and house cleaning and help him in a rescue attempt.

During the course of the film, I wondered a number of things: why the filmmakers thought making this sequel was a good move, why Matthew Perry is unlikely ever to have a movie career, and why the rating had to be PG-13 (cheating us of another view of Peet's breasts - the most noteworthy sight of the first movie). It always surprises me when films like this are greenlighted. People like to complain about the disconnect between the "average" moviegoer and the critic, but what about the divide between movie producers and their customers.

Howard Deutch is the man Hollywood calls upon when a lackluster sequel needs to be made. He's the guy responsible for both The Odd Couple 2 and Grumpier Old Men. Deutch started in the business as the handpicked director of John Hughes (he helmed Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and The Great Outdoors), and The Whole Ten Yards includes a reference to Hughes' Planes, Trains, and Automobiles - although it was a lot funnier when Steve Martin and John Candy did it. But, if you don't laugh at that, there are other opportunities, like Kevin Pollack's accent (which was grating five minutes into the first film) or the propensity of a 107-year old woman to pass gas. Surely by now, you must be rolling in the aisles? No?

I could mention that the Bruce Willis character is often genuinely unpleasant, or that some of the film's violence (such as a woman being slapped in the face) seems too mean-spirited to be wed effectively with laugh-generating material. But inconsistencies in tone are minor when compared to the confusion created by the editor's butchery. Given the quality of what's in the final print, I have no doubt that the missing material deserved to be cut (in fact, I can think of 99 additional minutes that could have been snipped with little loss), but we're often left without connecting scenes. Those few viewers who care about the progression of events will be disorientated. Everyone else will gradually realize that the con game perpetrated by The Whole Ten Yards is to steal a whole ten dollars.

Whole Ten Yards, The (United States, 2004)

Director: Howard Deutch
Cast: Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Kevin Pollak, Natasha Henstridge, Frank Collison
Screenplay: George Gallo
Cinematography: Neil Roach
Music: John Debney
U.S. Distributor: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 1:39
U.S. Release Date: 2004-03-09
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1