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Review: 'Return to Me' offers light, comedic fluff
By Reviewer Paul Clinton
(CNN) -- "Return To Me" is a sweet, whimsical, contemporary fairy tale set in modern-day Chicago starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver as the romantic leads. It's also the feature-film directing debut of actress Bonnie Hunt, who additionally co-wrote the screenplay and co-stars in the film as Driver's best friend.
This light confection is fairly predictable, but still delivers a few diversionary moments with its bittersweet take on love and loss.
A life ends
Duchovny, known for his role on TV's "The X-Files," stars as Bob Rueland, an architect who's trying to reassemble his life after his wife is killed. Played by Joely Richardson, she dies 20 minutes into the movie in a car crash. During the time preceding her demise the film flashes back and forth to a hospital room where Driver, starring as Grace Briggs, is on her last legs. She's waiting for a heart transplant.
Flash forward one year. Grace is now tentatively starting a new life with her new heart, which she received at nearly the last beat of her old heart. Meanwhile, across town, Rueland is attempting to date again.
His best buddy, played by an over-eager David Alan Grier, fixes him up with a blind date from hell. In a wonderful turn, Hunt's friend, actress Holly Worthell, plays that date, stealing scenes with an over-the-top, delightful performance. If you see the trailer or promotional spots for the film, she's the one who tells Duchovny his "ass is ringing."
A relationship begins
As fate would have it, this date takes place at O'Reilly's Restaurant, the only Irish/Italian joint in Chicago where boiled cabbage is served alongside ravioli, where the restaurant's sound system gives diners equal doses of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. This eclectic joint just happens to be owned by Grace's grandfather, portrayed by the indomitable Carroll O'Connor. O'Reilly's also just happens to be where Grace works. She waits on the blind-date duo, and, of course, sparks fly between her and the lonely widower.
Grace is worried about her transplant scar and how it could affect prospective suitors. Rueland is just amazed that he can fall in love again. The two stumble into a relationship.
OK, it might start sounding familiar by now. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. Credits roll.
Now there are some cute twists and turns here and there, and one twist is fairly major. But if you don't see it coming within five minutes of sitting down in in your seat ......Well, you must be waiting for a brain transplant.
This film is energized by excellent performances by actors portraying Grace's extended family at the restaurant -- Robert Loggia, Eddie Jones, William Bronder and Marianne Muellerleile. It's great to see actors of "a certain age" getting to play well-rounded characters that actually add richness to the story. Duchovny also delivers a good performance, but this role doesn't guarantee his leap from TV to film stardom.
The whole movie, shot almost entirely in Chicago, is full of Hunt's friends and relatives, and obviously is her labor of love.
Hunt's co-screenwriter and old Chicago buddy, Don Lake, appears in the film in a cameo. Grier worked with Hunt in the 1995 bomb "Jumanji." Jim Belushi, who plays Hunt's husband, is an old friend and -- like Hunt -- an alum of Chicago's Second City improv and comedy group. Two of Hunt's brothers and her nephew also appear in small cameos.
Populated with wonderful character actors and supporting players, this ode to Hunt's native Chicago moves along nicely, provides a few laughs, a few awwws and is then instantly forgettable.
"Return To Me" opens nationwide on Friday April 7th is rated PG with a running time of 114 minutes.
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'Return to Me'
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