Rick (2003) / Drama-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content and language
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Bill Pullman, Aaron Stanford, Agnes Bruckner, Dylan Baker, Sandra Oh, Emmanuelle Chriqui
Director: Curtiss Clayton
Screenplay: Daniel Handler
Review published November 18, 2004
Rick starts off with a good deal of promise, only to squander whatever meager momentum it builds by the halfway point, and descends rapidly into one of the worst finales of almost any movie I’ve seen in recent memory (Reportedly derived from the Verdi opera, “Rigoletto”, with shades of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”). As written by Daniel Handler, aka the children’s book author also known as Lemony Snicket, this will make you think he has spent so much time writing for children that he no longer knows how to connect to events of the adult world.
Bill Pullman (The Guilty, The Grudge) stars as Rick O'Lette (Get it? A play on the title “Rigoletto”), a corporate bigwig playing second fiddle to a man half his age named Duke (Aaron Stanford, Tadpole). Unbeknownst to him, Rick’s daughter Eve (Agnes Bruckner, Blue Car) has been engaging in anonymous cyber sex, with her most frequent partner being a man going by the moniker of “bigboss”, and just so happens to be the big boss for real, Duke. Enter Buck (Dylan Baker, The Cell), head of a company that contracts killings for a fee, and guarantees to remove the one obstacle that stands in the way of his running the company, Duke. At first, Rick wants no part of it, but as it becomes obvious that Duke is making a play for Eve, Rick begins having second thoughts about giving it a go.
Rick has many annoying qualities; perhaps none more so than director Curtiss Clayton’s decision to film this comedy as if it were a dark, sci-fi thriller. Bizarre stylizations abound, but the visceral impact is so off-putting that the comedy never really takes hold, losing all sense of timing, irony, and levity. Sure, it does give it a strangely quirky quality that has a different kind of appeal, but the often-mundane gags pull this one right back down into mediocrity. The score is full of electronic renditions of Christmas standards, and although this story does take place during the holidays, these little ditties add nothing to the feel of the film, and perhaps even detract from the momentum, where another piece of music might have worked better. At the same time, they sound like beautiful music compared to having to endure Akinyele’s “Put It In Your Mouth”, which gets played about a dozen times throughout, one of them being the corporate Christmas party where it would never have been played. Nice try for a cheap laugh, but not funny.
The real problem with Rick is that it is easy to figure out that something will be amiss once an Asian-American woman (Sandra Oh) that Rick ridicules puts a curse on him, allowing for a predictably skewed ending that results in his comeuppance. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film, except to say that this ending is abysmally terrible, and worse, it’s pointless. There is no irony in it at all, basically just ending a film that would have been just a slap in the face with a goodbye kick in the groin, regardless of whether it’s taken from “Rigoletto”.
Never settling into the right tone for a black comedy, Rick has the distinction of being uneven and odd at the same time. Viewers who like whacked-out, off-the-wall comedies that make you feel constantly unsettled will find some merit to Clayton’s excursion into this corporate Twilight Zone, but most others will probably wish they had chosen something else, anything else, for entertainment. If you’re familiar with Verdi’s opera and are curious, this may represent an interesting experiment, but those unfamiliar will think Rick is just Sick.
©2004 Vince Leo