'Life' has never been so trivial

by Peter Jenks | 5/15/02 5:00am

Stephen Herek's new film "Life or Something Like It" is interesting. Interesting in some aspects of its plot, some characters and some purely cinematic features, but never very good. As the movie unfolds before your eyes, it manages to keep the viewer interested, but little more.

The movie stars Angelina Jolie as Lanie Kerrigan, a self-obsessed Seattle local television reporter famous for her hair and over-the-top personality. Her life is, by her own definition, perfect. She has the perfect job, the star of the Seattle Mariners as her fiance and has recently been offered a job at a national morning show. One day, however, while doing a story on a local street personality known only as Prophet Jack (Tony Shalhoub), he prophesies that she will die in exactly a week.

While initially Lanie believes she is in no danger, when Prophet Jack's other predictions all start to come true, she begins to fear for her life. As her fear increases, she turns to her nemesis, a "national" quality film man named Pete (Edward Burns) who is supposed to help her "learn film." The reason for this reaction is that Kerrigan happened to be working with Pete on the day that her death was foretold and thus she suspected that he might have something to do with it. As Pete assures her that he did not, he also advises her to make a sudden change in the way she lives, thus rendering Prophet Jack's prophecy false.

Lanie takes Pete's word for gold and overhauls her life. She begins to do things like not showering for a few days, eating cookies and not working out-- which results in her breaking up with her fiance and eventually restoring her relationship with Pete. All this ends in her arriving at an assignment drunk, where she proceeds to prompt transit worker strikers into singing "Satisfaction." The incident makes her famous nationwide. This is misinterpreted as a ploy for attention at her morning show and the company offers her the job which Prophet Jack had predicted that she would not get, giving her reason to doubt her death sentence.

"Life or Something Like It" fails on a number of fundamental levels. Lanie states at the end of the film, in a moment of epiphany, "Someone once said, 'Live every day as if it were your last.'" This is the ideological climax of the film. While this statement is very true, the problem is that every time this has been said, it was done with more poignancy than this particular film provides.

However, the film manages to entertain the viewer nicely. The actors do a decent job and Jolie comes off well in spite of her script, character and occasional overacting. And while the film has little depth, it does provide the view with a number of laugh-out-loud moments.

In the end, however, "Life or Something Like It" just doesn't work -- not so much because of its meaninglessness, but because it attempts to be meaningful and fails so miserably.