It Could Happen to You (1994) / Comedy-Romance

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Bridget Fonda, Rosie Perez, Wendell Pierce, Isaac Hayes, Seymour Cassel, Stanley Tucci, Victor Rojas, Red Buttons
Cameo: Vincent Pastore, Emily Deschanel, Willie Colon, Jack Cafferty
Director: Andrew Bergman

Screenplay: Jane Anderson
Review published April 5, 2008

An old-fashioned romantic comedy, reportedly inspired by a true story (although the real-life story had the waitress actually contribute in the picking of the Lotto numbers, which made the split winnings more believable), shows how difficult it is to make a Capra-esque movie in a modern setting.  

The contrived premise sees a New York cop, Charlie Lang (Cage, Red Rock West), leave a waitress, Yvonne Biasi (Fonda, Jackie Brown), a half share of his Lotto ticket as a tip.  The ticket ends up a winner, and Charlie's share is $4 million, but his shrewish, avaricious wife, Muriel (Perez, Do the Right Thing), is upset at having to share any more of their winnings than they have to.  Charlie's too good a person to renege on the deal, and the $2 million tip ends up being front page news, thrusting the trio into the media spotlight.  Soon, Muriel's greed, on-the-job issues, and the burgeoning romance between Charlie and Yvonne threaten to steal away their claim to happiness.

Breezy much of the way, though its lightness is marred somewhat by adultery entanglements and an out-of-place armed robbery scene, It Could Happen to You is an amiable but ultimately uneven film that entertains mildly for the moment, only to be quickly forgotten soon after.  Not to mention, its biggest draw, the unabashed, rosy-colored outlook on New York City, feels forced on more than one occasion.  Liabilities also include the odd casting of Cage and Perez as a husband and wife that one can only sense do not belong together, and probably never could have ever ended up together except in an artificial comedy such as this.  

The obviously miscast Perez does what amounts to an over-the-top "Rosie Perez" impression of herself, with a comic performance that strives more for delivery than substance, and quickly grates the nerves.  Cage and Fonda have their appeal, despite the fact that the contrivances in the script by Jane Anderson (How to Make an American Quilt, The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio) stretch their ability to act natural at times.   In short, we can see all too clearly what the filmmakers were trying to do, and can see they didn't succeed.

With a tone that never settles into a defined groove, It Could Happen to You doesn't come together, offering only a handful of nice moments amid a framework of hard-to-swallow plot machinations.  Frank Capra made magical comedies where we believed in the goodness and earnestness of his players.  In Andrew Bergman's (The Freshman, Honeymoon in Vegas) fantasy-land NYC, we constantly sees the wheels turning and a director trying to follow a master chef's recipe without having nearly the quality of ingredients called for.  

Qwipster's rating:

©2008 Vince Leo