Three to Tango (1999) 1/2 *
Directed by Damon Santostefano. Written by Rodney Vaccaro & Aline Brosh McKenna, based on a story by Vaccaro;. Photography, Walt Lloyd Editing, Stephen Semel. Production design, David Nichols. Music, Graeme Revell. Producers, Bobby Newmyer, Jeffrey Silver, Bettina Sofia Viviano. Cast: Matthew Perry (Oscar Novak), Neve Campbell (Amy Post), Dylan McDermott (Charles Newman), Oliver Platt (Peter Steinberg), Cylk Cozart (Kevin Cartwright), et al. A Warner Brothers release. Ca. 100 minutes. PG-13 (sexual situations, language)
The Warner Bros. logo now comes with the music of Casablanca's "As time goes by" aka "you must remember this. . . " Wrong tune for Three to Tango. a would-be romantic comedy-farce. Time goes by interminably. And, later, you couldn't remember this flick if you tried. The story: Oscar (straight) and Peter (gay) are friends, architects and associates. They need badly a contract with tycoon Charles, for a cultural center in Chicago. Most unlikely circumstances -- forced, reinforced by competitors, and unfunny-- make Charles believe that Oscar and Peter are a gay couple.
Married Charles has a girlfriend (mistress, in older English), glass sculptor Amy. who has many males flitting around her. Charles, feeling safe with the falsely gay Oscar, directs him to keep an eye on her. Desperate for the architectura; contract, Oscar plays along and accepts the task. And with 200 % predictability, Oscar falls for Amy while she, in a state of sexual confusion, falls for him. The rest is not, but should have been, silence.
The title Three to Tango is a dumb, irrelevant variant of the expression "it takes two to tango. " The opening credits are an irrelevant montage of jazz music (not even tango!) and boogie-woogie dances. The closing credits of sung jazz are irrelevant.
TTT is one big pile of irrelevancies. Its plot tries, feebly, to work in tolerance of gays; it succeeds, stongly, in making them somewhat caricatural or indifferent at best. The overall ambiance has something vinegary about it.
Today's "celebrity" cult has reached the stupidest levels, as the public gorges itself with anyone who's appeared on a screen, or had his name in the media, her face photographed, their private lives mentioned in print, on the air, on voice-mail or bathroom graffiti. It is this public that the movie is targeting, with actors from TV.
One of the many weaknesses of this is that people who are not glued to television can hardly differentiate among the thesps. It's another world from that of Bogie, Errol Flynn, Wayne, Tracy, of Irene Dunne, Bette Davis, Kate Hepburn, or later McQueen, Hoffman, Newman, Peck and such. Or even from that of the many familiar faces of character actors in the studios' stables. There are still stars and sub-stars that get immediate recognition, but these are fewer and fewer as the performers more and more look alike, unmemorable, un-striking and interchangeably generic. Such is the case of the cast in TTT, with only Oliver Platt standing out -- and this because of a hideous beard.
The film advances in lead-footed steps. It is like one of those of those old diving suits with heavy boots that were shown in movies in the days before the snorkels of Captain Cousteau. The actors are unattractive --and so are their roles. Not one performer is above dumbness level, or interesting as playerr or as character. I know that some people think that Neve Campbell is super-cute on TV. Could be, but in this film I find her and her nasal voice, unexciting.
The dialogue is undernourished. The attempts at humor are cheap, as typified by a spectacle of twin vomiting, by scenes of irrelevant, vague "comparses" such as Oscar's and Peter's pals who are no more than wooden furniture sitting on furniture. Or by a tacky metaphor of Oscar in Amy's workshop, blowing glass which she tries to shape.
Logic is one-dimensional. Why Amy finds herself falling for Oscar (gay or not) is a mystery, unless you decide that two such nonentities make a good match. Why Amy is (or was) in love with the insufferable Charles makes no sense. Why does free-spirit Amy who's moved in with Oscar (she owed rent), have to stay in the tub under a blanket of soap-bubbles; why she asks visiting Oscar to turn around when she emerges from the water; why this modesty of the bygone Code days; why is she incalculably less sexy than Claudette Colbert as the latter bathed in asses' milk in C. B. De Mille's 1934 Cleopatra --these are among the many unanswerable questions.
I did not laugh once. Some audience members did so a number of times. My curiosity made me search the Internet for viewers' reactions. Several were enthusiastic, albeit ungrammatical -- as is Platt's "for Oscar and I" -- mostly because Campbell and Perry "were so hot. " Well, I'm sure that Eskimos think it is hot when the temperature stands at 20 degrees F.
Any good spots? Perhaps, if you have a magnifying glass. No, make this the Mount Palomar telescope.