The Whole Nine Yards

Directed by Jonathan Lynn
Starring: Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Rosanna Arquette, Michael Clarke Duncan, Natasha Henstridge, Amanda Peet, Kevin Pollack.
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality/nudity and violence.

Review by Matt Heffernan
February 18, 2000

Continuing in a recent Hollywood trend, here is yet another comedy about organized crime. How many more can they make until they milk the idea dry? Oh wait, they already have.

Nicholas Oseransky (Matthew Perry) is a dentist living in Montréal, nicknamed "Oz" (but not the "Great and Powerful"). He is trapped in a loveless marriage with Sophie (Rosanna Arquette), a French-Canadian girl whose late father had a partnership with him. He was left a huge debt, and she won't leave him until they pay it off. As if life weren't difficult enough already, they get a new neighbor: Jimmy Jones (Bruce Willis).

When Oz meets Jimmy, he recognizes a tattoo of a tulip on his arm and quickly realizes that he is Jimmy "The Tulip" Tudeski: a hit man recently released from prison for testifying against the Hungarian mob. Jimmy has a big contract on his head from Yanni Gogolack (Kevin Pollack), the son of the boss that Jimmy put away. Sophie convinces Oz to go to Gogolack and get a "finder's fee" for revealing Jimmy's location. Oz has to decide whether it's better to involve himself with murderers so that he can repay his debt, or continue to live with a woman who hates him.

In order to explain the meaning of the title The Whole Nine Yards would require even more explanation of the plot. And that's the major flaw here: despite many very funny moments, the plot is just too complicated and requires great unfunny stretches to service it. There's the character of Jimmy's wife, played by Natasha Henstridge (who really shouldn't be in a film unless she's naked or turning into an alien -- or both), who has this fling with Oz, after which a lengthy discussion is given on the finer points of the Tudeski family's situation.

In between those plotty moments, there are some very good comic performances. Willis is always at his best when playing simple characters, where he can just let his charisma and humor come onto the screen without any real "acting" interfering with his persona. Perry tries to go for a Jerry Lewis angle here, with a fair degree of success. He also banks on his persona as a self-effacing smart-ass, which combines well with the physical humor.

I just realized that this film has an interesting coincidence with the last mob comedy: Gun Shy. They both end with the main characters in a contrived resolution that takes place on a boat, on which they sail into the end credits. Could this be a sign that soon all these mob comedies will be indistinguishable? I can barely tell them apart as it is.

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The Whole Nine Yards (2000)

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan