Despite coincidences and leaps of faith in logic that would seem implausibleeven in a James Bond movie, the new romantic comedy Serendipity is a mildcharmer that gets decent mileage out of its three main stars.
The film opens at Christmastime in New York City, where Jonathan (John Cusack)meets Sara (Kate Beckinsale) when the two reach for the same pair of gloves inBlooomingdales department store. They connect instantly and Sara, a truebeliever in destiny, suggests that they put their names and numbers out into theuniverse, hers inside a book and his on the back of a five dollar bill. If theyare truly meant to be together after knowing each other for only a few hours,then they will find these clues and fate will bring them back together.
Flashforward to a few years later. Each is about to marry someone else but they havenever forgotten about one another. In the real world, they would just let it goand carry on with their marriage plans. Being that this is a movie, they eachset out to find the other person and see if what might have been can still be.
Suspension of disbelief is something that is required when one watches a motionpicture. With Serendipity, you’re required not only to suspend that disbelief,but also disown and put a voodoo curse on it. In lieu of a fleshed out story andcharacters, Marc Klein’s screenplay is instead chock full of coincidences andsituations that are just too much to buy into. If Klein and director PeterChesholm (Town and Country) had actually taken more time to let the story andcharacters come to life (the film runs a hair over 90 minutes), the film mostlikely would have been more endearing and fun. Their work isn’t terrible; it’sjust very slight, all too obvious and rushed.
The lead actors are what make the film worthy of a viewing. Cusack andBeckinsale work quite well together, displaying great onscreen chemistry. Cusackcan still bring a lot of life and comic firepower to this type of character, onethat he can probably play in his sleep by now. Beckinsale, who seems to haveawakened from that cinematic coma known as Pearl Harbor, plays Sara with a nice,easy-going charm.
The two share precious little screen time together, but theymake that time count. Jeremy Piven is excellent as Jonathan’s best friend whohelps him try to find Sara. He works so well off with Cusack that whenever he’sonscreen, he steals the film. Eugene Levy, as a Bloomingdales salesman who alsohelps Jonathan in his quest, also delivers big laughs in his brief appearance.
The other actors in the cast, however, are not as lucky. Bridget Moynahan asJonathan’s fianc, John Corbett as Sara’s beau and Molly Shannon as her bestfriend, are largely wasted. It has nothing to do with their performances but itdoes have everything to do with the underwritten characters they are stuck with.In fact, Moynahan and Corbett’s characters are so slight that the movie may haveactually been better off ditching them altogether.
Serendipity isn’t a bad film. It’s easy enough to sit through and the leads areappealing, making it a recommended bargain matinee or video rental. However itis a disappointing effort, one that squanders its potential by being in such ahurry to get to a conclusion that will surprise no one.