Film: "I Love Trouble"
Stars: Julia Roberts, Nick Nolte and Saul Rubinek
Theaters: Annex, Eton Square and Cinema 8 (Broken Arrow,
Rating: PG (language, violence)
Quality: ONE 1/2 STARS (on a scale of zero to four stars)
"I Love Trouble" aims for the kind of breezy repartee
and gruff romanticism that distinguished the old newspaper
screwball comedies of the 1930s and '40s.
It wants you to recall vintage flicks like "It Happened
One Night" and "His Girl Friday," in which a cynical
old newshound and a brash young sophisticate bickered and
brawled and fell in love while in pursuit of the Big Story.
The Big Story, in this case, seems to be something borrowed
from Alfred Hitchcock's "North By Northwest."
But director Charles Shyer and his producer and co-writer
wife Nancy Meyers simply aren't up to the task of replicating
the classic sparkle of Frank Capra and Howard Hawks, or
the romantic intrigues of Hitchcock.
Instead, they come closer to copying "Teacher's Pet,"
a lukewarm quasi-screwball of the '50s that had Clark Gable
as a rough, old-school newspaperman clashing with prim and
principled journalism teacher Doris Day. That, with a dash
of Hitchcock filtered through TV's "Hart to Hart."
That's the main trouble with this latest Shyer-Myers collaboration
(they did "Private Benjamin," "Baby Boom" and the recent
remake of "Father of the Bride"). Their work has a derivative,
piecework quality that shows its origins.
In this case, their attempt to blend worldly romantic comedy
with murder-suspense produces a hybrid, uninspired tale
that's not likely to stop any presses.
Set in the dog-eat-dog world of Chicago newspaper journalism,
"I Love Trouble" gives us Nick Nolte as veteran Chronicle
columnist Peter Brackett, a self-satisfied cad who's more
interested in skirt-chasing than scoop-chasing. These days,
he spends more time promoting his new novel than reporting
It's only when Brackett crosses paths with Julia Roberts'
efficient, hard-driving Sabrina Peterson, an ambitious cub
reporter for the rival Globe, that Brackett's news instincts
The two meet when they're both assigned to cover the same
train wreck. Brackett tries to put the moves on the lissome
Sabrina. She gives him a brusque brush-off and takes off
after the story. The smug, cynical Brackett is soon hot
after a scoop as well.
As it turns out, there's more to the story than meets the
eye, and soon Sabrina and Brackett find themselves dealing
with trench-coated hitmen and all sorts of unsavory characters
as their investigative reporting turns deadly.
Roberts and Nolte have a long roster of models to draw upon
in playing out this May-September romance - from Claudette
Colbert and Clark Gable, to Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant,
to Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.
But the running badinage of Roberts and Nolte lacks the
tartness and bite that made those classic couplings and
the old screwballs crackle with contentious wit. In fact,
there's sort of a dreary plainness to many of their exchanges,
as when Sabrina puts Brackett down and he responds by asking
if she comes from "Bitchville."
Shyer and Myers seem so intent on building up this cute
romance that they fail to pay attention to another key element
of the genre - brisk pacing. With a plot that takes the
deadline-duo on a chase from Chicago to rural Wisconsin
to Las Vegas and back, the story simply plods along between
zippy exchanges between the stars. (At just over two hours,
the film is easily 30 minutes too long.)
Roberts is as lovely and radiant as ever, but even this
thin material demonstrates her woefully limited range as
an actress. The estimable, crusty Nolte has to carry Roberts
along and he often seems more paternal than romantic in
the presence of his fresh young co-star. (Again, this dynamic
calls to mind the Gable-Day pairing in "Teacher's Pet.")
In the end, this movie falls short both as a screwball homage
and as a tension-filled thriller. It's simply too unfocused
and short on sharp wit. For a movie that attempts to traffic
in the hard-nosed lore of big-city reporting, "I Love Trouble"
is - in newspaper parlance - nothing more than a puff piece.