|DVD Romantic Comedy|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 10 November 1998|
Let us begin here with a note about film critics. Our profession dictates that we have fairly extensive vocabularies; we should not have to resort to name-calling. However, sometimes only a word like "lame" will do.
Case in point: 'Her Alibi,' a would-be comedy/thriller that contains perhaps one genuine chuckle (a laugh would be making too much of it) and no excitement whatsoever.
In 'Her Alibi,' Tom Selleck plays mystery writer Phillip, whose talent has been blocked since his wife dumped him. Hanging around the courts in the hopes of finding a case that will suggest a plot, he finds himself entranced by accused murderess Nina (Paulina Porizkova), a gorgeous Romanian immigrant. Without a clue as to whether she's guilty or not, Phillip insists to the police that Nina is his lover and was with him on the night in question. The police have no choice but to release their prime suspect, who for a variety of reasons winds up staying with Phillip. But is Nina actually a killer? If so, will she do it again?
It is just about impossible to overstate how completely 'Her Alibi' fails to work on virtually every level. Charlie Peters' script has sitcom sensibilities minus genuine punchlines, with cartoon characters and situations that are so obvious that time and again, there seems to be no point in letting them play out--we can tell where they're heading from the moment they start. Nobody seems to know what reality level 'Her Alibi' is meant to occupy. Phillip has ostensibly been a best-selling novelist for years, yet when we hear his work, it is wretched. Nina's behavior would make more sense if she'd been raised by wolves, rather than Eastern Europeans; in trying to make her mysterious, the script consistently parts company with logic, motivation and originality. Porizkova is lovely, but the role is constructed in a way that requires little of her and Selleck tries too hard without ever finding his footing.
It's astonishing to see the often-excellent Bruce Beresford listed as director here. A genius with strong action ('Breaker Morant') or subtle character work ('Tender Mercies'), Beresford seems totally adrift in the universe of intended broad comedy. He and director of photography Freddie Francis create a series of pretty, but banal images as the visuals are attractive but seldom striking.
If for some reason you've absolutely got to see 'Her Alibi,' Chapter 16 contains some excellent crashing sounds during a sequence of bad driving, Chapter 20 has a reasonably impressive explosion and Chapter 27 features some clown costumes that show off the color contrast very well.