As a group of six individuals converge on the road to compete for the
grand prize in a karaoke
contest, their lives intertwine and reveal the remote world of karaoke
bars and chain hotels that link the interstates of middle America.
There have been those nights where you're out with your friends and
you end up at the corner/roadhouse bar. It's not an ordinary bar, but
bar. Your friends encourage you to jump on stage and take the
microphone just so they can simply goof on you at your expense. The
subculture has gained popularity over the past decade, and it
reflects the courage to stand up in front of strangers and face your
fears in the form of embarrassment. Unfortunately, "Duets"
presents a candid prospective that is more cold and romanticized,
rather than showing the heart and soul it takes to stand up and let
yourself be free of your fears.
I have performed karaoke
exactly twice in my life and both times it turned out to be one of
the most humiliating experiences of my life. I never claimed that I
could sing "Ring of Fire" and I proved it. "Duets"
is just as painful and just as hard on the eyes and ears. It's a
silly and boring road trip about six strangers who come from
different backgrounds, but all have the love of karaoke.
If that doesn't sound ridiculous enough, each of the characters are
written and performed as though they were all contestants on "The
Gong Show" who never get gonged!
We have: A small-town
singer (Maria Bello, fresh from "Coyote Ugly"); a cabdriver
(Scott Speedman); a Las Vegas showgirl (Academy Award winner Gwyneth
Paltrow) and a singing hustler (Huey Lewis).
The worst offender in the
film is Paul Giamatti, as a hyper-yet-burned-out salesman who picks
up an escaped convict (Andre Braugher) hitchhiking along the way.
After bonding and attempting to rob a convenience store, they
continue their journey to Omaha, Neb., to compete in the karaoke
championships for a whopping $5,000. Yes, this is a real movie.
Giamatti is not fully to blame. It's the awful script by John Byrum
and his inexperienced dialogue that holds every talented actor in
this film hostage with no chance for escape.
Watching this sing-alongfest was an absolute uphill climb, Jeff. I
mean, where do you start with this ensemble cast of miserable
characters who are no more engaging than the songs they sing? First,
the only reason I can figure that the Oscar-blessed Paltrow could
have been in this pic must have been due to her dear old dad,
director Bruce Paltrow.
Nowhere do you see the
quality behind her unquestionable talent as an actress as she
sluggishly makes her way from scene to scene; nor is there any sense
of father/daughter chemistry between her and rock 'n' roller-turned
actor Lewis. He is a walking cardboard cutout whose familiar vocals
hardly excuse his onscreen presence. And Jeff -- who is a closet fan
of Huey Lewis and the News -- has to admit to that!
Lewis can sing, but cannot act. He looked absolutely lost. I can't
blame him -- I was lost myself. The simple fact is that none of the
stories are interesting enough to keep your attention. Who would
guess by the film's end they would all meet together and wrap up
neatly into a bow. And, who would guess that the bow would be wrapped
around your throat and cut off your air supply? I kept thinking of
Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You," where the cast
each sang with their own voice (with exception of Drew Barrymore) and
pulled it off. "Duets" wishes it could be as lucky. My
final thought: Instead of watching "Duets," I'd rather be
stuck in an elevator with Carrot Top. Either way I would win.
"Duets" hits all the wrong notes.
Well, I guess that leaves me with the difficult task of finding one
positive aspect about the film. Of the various stories that unfold
throughout this bumpy road trip of a movie, Braugher (Emmy winner
from the NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Streets") was the
only shining actor who I actually found myself curious about. As an
ex-con whose only wish is "the chance to do the things I never
did, and should have," he brought a truth to his character that
outweighed the entire film. His vocals are extraordinary, his reasons
for searching for "freedom" are inspiring, but his fate in
this story is an over-dramatic letdown. Let's just say that this
pathetic, unfulfilling mess does more harm than justice to the
popularity of karaoke.
Overcome your fears, take to the stage and sing your favorite Barry
Manilow tune, because believe me, witnessing "Duets" is
more embarrassing than any one of you singing "At the Copa ... Copacabana!"
The Movie Guys, starring
Jeff Howard and Dave Neil, appears Fridays in the Sun. They can also
be seen on the 11 a.m. Friday newscast on KVVU Channel 5. Plus, check
them out online at lasvegassun.com/sunlife/visual and themovieguys.com
Copyright 2000 Las
you think? Post your comments on our Forums.