The Next Best Thing

In an amazing stretch of acting, Rupert Everett, in real life a gay actor and friend of super-fit Madonna, plays Robert, a gay man who is friends with Yoga instructor Abbie (Madonna). Thus begins John Schlesinger's (Eye for an Eye, The Tales of Sweeney Todd) The Next Best Thing, a movie which people will remember more for Madonna's new version of Don McLean's American Pie than for anything else. Madonna (Evita, Body of Evidence) and producer William Orbit shortened and added a techno touch to the 1971 classic, turning it into a brighter, peppier version of the original. If only the same thing was done to The Next Best Thing.

Robert (Everett, An Ideal Husband, Inspector Gadget) and Abbie are best friends. When one of their friends die, they get drunk to console each other, and end up having sex. That one encounter leaves Abbie pregnant, and the two decide to move in together to raise the baby. Six years flash by, and now, their son Sam (Malcom Stumpf) is a precocious, curious young boy. In that span of time, Robert managed to keep an active social life, but Abbie stopped dating. She now meets Ben (Benjamin Bratt, One Good Cop, NBC's Law & Order), and slowly begins to fall in love. Robert becomes increasingly jealous of Ben and Abbie's relationship, seeing Robert as a substitute for his own role as father to Sam. What once started as a comedy quickly turns into a bitter child custody dispute movie.

Everett, Leslie Dixon, Tom Ropelewski, and Mel Bordeaux share writing credits for the movie (the first bad sign). Perhaps each of these writers tried to put in their own vision of what The Next Best Thing is about, giving it a schizophrenic feel. None of the so-called comedy is funny. Even more annoying is the camera's tendency to focus on each character's face, while a light shines to illuminate their eyes. The cast is by far the most photogenic in recent memory (as the frequency of Madonna, Everett, and Bratt walking around half-naked attests), but their characters, especially Everett, become extremely unlikable. Robert continually claims he loves Sam, but not enough time is spent between the two to back up his statements. Both Madonna and Everett are better actors, and should pick films to reflect this.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 50 minutes, Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexual content, partial nudity, and language.

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