So, I have a perverse desire to see almost any film I possibly can that gets unanimously bad reviews by mainstream reviews. There's really no other way to explain why I recently sat through Battlefield Earth. I suppose that's why I was very willing to watch Duets, which was generally panned for lousy writing, hammy overacting, etc.
And the critics weren't entirely off-base with that criticism. The script is decent, if not great, and it is fun to get a look at a world most of us aren't really familiar with, unless, of course, you are a karaoke hustler, in which case you doubtlessly have a slew of complaints with the accuracy of the film. For the rest of us, though, it's just about as much fun to watch a well-done karaoke hustle as it is a nice pool/poker/bowling hustle.
So, where does the film fall apart?
First off, the whole Huey Lewis/Gwyneth Paltrow storyline is painful (They play an estranged father/daughter couple) Huey is, at best, a tolerable screen presence. Gwyneth is falling back on her dumb blonde routine, which many of us are increasingly confident is not actually a routine. Not too mention some kinda creepy incest overtones in their dynamic. Blech.
Secondly, Andre Braugher is too good for this movie. I don't mean that in the "an actor of this caliber deserves a better film" (though that is certainly true), but he routinely invests scenes with more emotional intensity than any other character seems to be feeling. It serves only to underscore how flimsy the other performances are, especially since he is largely paired with Paul Giamatti, who is, at best, Jeremy Piven with a severe need to get attention.
But, it's still kind of fun, and might be worth watching for free if the weather's lousy....
Rating: B- (Not as bad as expected)Reviewed by Padgett Arango