THE ICE HARVEST (Harold Ramis). 88 minutes. Opens Friday (November 25). For venues and times, see Movie Times. Rating: NN
Angry, bitter Christmas movies are the new black. But if hot pants have taught us nothing else, it's that not all trends work for everyone.
Poor Harold Ramis never got the memo, and so the master of glorious stupid humour (Caddyshack,Ghostbusters) went shopping for a new genre, trying on a dark comedy about flawed lawyer Charlie ( John Cusack ) and his oily mentor Vic ( Billy Bob Thornton ), who decide to swindle the local mob on Christmas Eve.
Sadly, it doesn't fit. Dark comedy is supposed to be subtle, and his execution is, well, like a falling safe. Take his need to follow the slapstick antics of Oliver Platt on a drunken bender or his misguided direction of Connie Nielsen as temptress Renata. He's got her so breathy, she's more asthmatic than femme fatale.
True, folksy writers Robert Benton and Richard Russo (Nobody's Fool) are equally ill-suited, but it's Ramis who wears the blame.
That the movie works at all is thanks to Cusack and Thornton, who were made for this type of flick. Thornton always makes lemonade from lemons, and everyman Cusack has that puppy-dog endearment thing going, despite his recent and, it now seems clear, continually pitiful choice in films.