Romy and Michele: In the Beginning (2005) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for some sexuality
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Katherine Heigl, Alex Breckenridge, Nat Faxon, Scott Vickaryous, Kelly Brook, Dania Ramirez, Rhea Seehorn, Vendela K. Thommessen (Kirsebom), Leslie Intriago, Paula Abdul
Director: Robin Schiff
Screenplay: Robin Schiff
Review published September 12, 2005
"The truth is you are a mean person with an ugly heart and, quite frankly, we don't give a flying f*ck what you think!" -- Romy White, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. (Probably after reading this review.)
I'm actually at a loss for words with Romy and Michele: In the Beginning (actually filmed in 2002, meant to be a pilot for a new series), the unnecessary prequel to the cult comedy, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. Although it is written and directed by Robin Schiff (Loverboy, Swimsuit), the screenwriter for the first film and the creator of the characters themselves, there is one major inconsistency of this second film that bothered me throughout. It's like a Freaky Friday experience, but Romy and Michele have, like, totally switched names!
Yes, based on the looks and personalities of the actresses in In the Beginning, you would easily guess that Katherine Heigl (Under Siege 2, Valentine) is doing a terrific impression of Lisa Kudrow, and that Alex Breckenridge (D.E.B.S., Vampire Clan) is meant to be the equivalent of Mira Sorvino. However, in Reunion Kudrow is called Michele and Sorvino is Romy, but they are exactly the opposite here! If this is a mistake, it's a colossal one, especially when so many of the same people who worked on the first film are front and center here. Arggh!
Putting that aside, the film starts off in Romy and Michele's home town of Tucson, AZ, where they have just graduated from high school and are ready to go out in the world. A few years later, they have their epiphany after watching Pretty Woman -- they want to become Hollywood hookers and meet a rich and handsome man like Richard Gere! Off they go to Tinseltown, but they immediately find themselves in trouble, ending their career as prostitutes before it began. Next on the agenda is a more modest goal: to get into the exclusive nightclub called Ozone, where all the who's-who rub shoulders and make connections.
First, let me get out of the way one of the positive things, because there is one thing about In the Beginning that bears complimenting. Katherine Heigl nails Lisa Kudrow's quirky performance from the first movie, and is very believable (with the exception of the aforementioned name change) in most details. Alex Breckinridge isn't quite as spot-on as Heigl in emulating Sorvino, but it's close enough to believe, although it doesn't help her appearance that she's a full brunette throughout most of the film instead of the dyed blonde Sorvino played. Both actresses are lively, game, and charming in their own way, and if the movie could capture most of the humor that the first film did, this could have been a nice surprise.
So, while the replacements are adequate, but the laughs still aren't there. Part of the reason is that Romy and Michele seem more air-headed than they did in the first film. I maintain that these two women aren't supposed to be dumb at all; they are shallow and consummately extroverted. All nuances are lost on them. Not so here, as they repeatedly do things only complete idiots would do, and this different approach makes them seem more like caricatures than the more rounded personalities exuded by Kudrow and Sorvino in the first film.
Without laughs, the movie as a whole becomes very dull very quickly, and by about the halfway point, the material is so thin, one wonders why they bothered bringing these characters back without giving them much to do. From the midway point to the end, In the Beginning is one fizzled joke after another, and despite some very energetic supporting characters and guest star appearances by Vendela and Paula Abdul, nothing seems to be able to resuscitate this misfire back to life again.
In the Beginning is a nice idea to give the diehard fans Romy and Michele in a brand new adventure, but it just isn't the same. The actresses are different, as are the names, the personalities, and so is the overall vibe. The only moments of amusement are mere retreads of jokes used to better extent from the first movie, and almost every new development proves to be either annoying or downright boring. Being a fan of the first film, I didn't really expect a sequel/prequel to recapture the charm 100%, but I still expected some passably dumb fun. What we have are two appealing actresses doing funny impersonations, but apparently no one else thought it would be a good idea to give them something else to do worth watching.
©2005 Vince Leo