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The Clay County Advocate - Press-Flora, IL
  • Movie Review: ‘The Grand Seduction’ falls short of its title

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  • It may be set in Newfoundland, but “The Grand Seduction” is pure blarney. It even features Irishman Brendan Gleeson in the lead role of an acting mayor who pulls off the biggest ruse since the Greeks entered Troy. And to carry that Celtic theme even further, the movie is a complete ripoff of the Emerald Isle-set “Waking Ned Devine.” But instead of trying to fool a lottery administrator, the residents of an idyllic seaside town are out to hoodwink a New York plastic surgeon.
    It’s as dull and predictable as it sounds, possibly a wee bit more. The script (based on an 11-year-old French-Canadian offering titled “Seducing Doctor Lewis”) leaves no cliche untouched, as it sends any semblance of plausibility packing. Worse, director Don McKellar (“The Last Night”) confuses hokum for charm almost as often as he mistakes stupidity for cleverness. It’s meant to tug at the heart, but merely sets the eyes rolling.
    At least Gleeson (“Harry Potter,” “Edge of Tomorrow”) is good. But when isn’t he? Still, he’s never been this severely challenged, leading one to wonder how good he might have been with a script more literate than the tripe Mike Dowse dishes out in depicting how 119 of the 120 residents of tiny Tickle Head conspire to lure a doctor — any doctor — to set up permanent residence. And the desperate townsfolk will do anything to keep him — including pretending to like cricket, sushi and cocaine — in order to keep him. It’s all part of a plan to fulfill the final prerequisite for landing a factory sure to revitalize a welfare-dependent fishing village that’s been on the skids ever since the cod dried up. Heck, even the mayor makes like Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin and ducks out before his term is up. At least his honor, now a TSA agent, is nice enough to reroute a potential sap the town’s way via blackmail after he catches Taylor Kitsch’s Dr. Paul Lewis in possession of a vial of cocaine.
    The agreement is for the cricket-loving, hot-shot plastic surgeon to stay a month. But what the doc doesn’t realize is that everyone but the town’s lovely, overtly honest postmistress (Liane Balaban) is in on a subterfuge in which the residents have 30 days to trick him into believing Ticklehead is his personal paradise. The problem with this scenario — besides the fact that it’s been done about a half-dozen times since 1991’s “Doc Hollywood” — is that there’s never any doubt the plan will succeed, simply because Dr. Lewis is the most gullible dupe in creation.
    What’s different about this version is it’s high-level creep factor, as the town impersonates the NSA by tapping the doc’s phone and noting his every like and dislike, including his favorite forms of fornication, gleaned while listening to him having phone sex with his New York girlfriend. If that wasn’t bad enough, Gleeson’s Murray French pretends he wants to become the father the doctor never had. Or, at least he does whenever he’s not lying about the standoffish postmistress secretly having the hots for the doc. Such stratagems aren’t funny, they’re sleazy, and the film ultimately pays for it with a total lack of appeal.
    Page 2 of 2 - The performances, especially by Gleeson, Kitsch (warmer than he’s ever been) and grizzled Gordon Pinsent as Murray’s chief partner in crime, are light and airy enough to keep you watching, but all the lies and deceptions eventually become a major turnoff. The doc may stay 30 days, but the filmmakers will be lucky if you stick around two hours submitting to a “Seduction” that’s anything but grand.
    THE GRAND SEDUCTION (PG-13 for some suggestive material and drug references.) Cast includes Brendan Gleeson, Tayor Kitsch, Gordon Pinsent and Liane Balaban. Directed by Don McKellar. At Kendall Square, Cambridge. Grade: C-

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