10 SURE SIGNS A MOVIE
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Richard Roeper has taken the reputation he has garnered as Gene Siskel's replacement as Roger Ebert's sidekick on "Ebert & Roeper" and turned it into several books about film, the most recent being 10 Sure Signs a Movie Character Is Doomed. This light-weight volume is a sort of cinematic Book of Lists which are the personal opinions of Roeper, although not every list includes an explanation for his selections.
The lists appear to be randomly organized so a reader goes from a list of "14 Movies Featuring Jay Leno Interviewing or Doing a Monologue Joke About the Characters" to "Actresses Who Still Looked Great Even When They Were Disguised as Men." Although Roeper occasionally groups lists by logical theme, most of these appear as a stream of conscience listing, which can, at times, produce an interesting topic dichotomy.
This lists, even when seemingly based on fact rather than Roeper's opinion, are in no way definitive. The "Meg Ryan's Movie Names" list is included to specifically prove a point, which is easy since Roeper failed to include names that didn't match his agenda, and so Ryan's roles as Eve in "Hanging Up," Sally in "When Harry Met Sally," and Lisa in "Amityville 3-D," for example are not included. The result being a listing sillier than most. Perhaps the silliest list, however, is "Let Me Guess, Your Number Starts with '555'," which seems pointless, especially when there are so many number which are left off (555-8632 from "WarGames," for instance).
The best lists will spark a discussion about the merits of Roeper's selections and what he should have selected instead. These include his three companion lists of "The Worst Sequels of All Time," "Decent Sequels," and "Sequels That Have Equaled or Bettered the Original." As noted, Roeper doesn't explain his choices in these cases, but he provides grist for a conversation about films which, along with making a couple of bucks, I imagine is his goal for the book.
Of course, one of the biggest oversights occurs with the list "10 Movie Character Imitations That Men Can't Resist Doing," which inexplicably omits Al Pacino saying "Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in." in "The Godfather, Part III," or "Take the gun, leave the cannoli" from "The Godfather" (or any other "Godfather" quote, for that matter).
The chronological range that Roeper has elected to focus on also appears limited, with the majority of the films named being released in the last fifteen years or so. Given the film industry's own sense of history and importance, it seems a little strange to have mostly limited himself in that respect, especially since it stands out when he does refer to an older film either as part of a list with more recent movies (i.e. "Ryan's Daughter" in a list of actors who attempted Irish accents) or lists that focus on older films (i.e. "Worst Ethnic Casting" which includes films ranging from 1934 ["Viva Villa!"] through 1961 [''Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "West Side Story"]).
Of course, many of the lists themselves exhibit Roeper's bias. While he includes a list of "12 Reasons Why He'll Never Attend a Freddie Prinze, Jr. Film Festival," the same list could easily have been written to focus on the incomprehensible careers of Keanu Reaves, Andie McDowell, or numerous other actors and actresses.
10 Sure Signs a Movie Character Is Doomed is a fun book to dip into and enjoy during a few moments in search of diversion. For longer periods, it can provoke fun and intelligent discussion about films and the clichés which appear in so many of them, similar, in some ways (although not , perhaps, as cliché-ridden as Ebert's hysterical Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary). While many of his lists can be recreated using sources such as the Internet Movie Database, many more of them offer an interesting perspective for a book which is a lot of fun.
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