8 Heads in a Duffel Bag

Joe Pesci proves he can act his way through anything, even this pale shade of David O. Russell's Flirting With Disaster (and other motley-crew-on-the-road comedies). Andy Comeau is clumsy as Charlie, a medical student and aspiring writer who encounters bagman Pesci on an airplane, and the expected switch of luggage ensues. Whenever a manuscript is involved—Charlie's duffel contains one—you can count on a self-referential ending, but whether or not making this 1997 movie was as challenging for writer-director Tom Schulman as the task of baby-sitting eight severed heads from a mob hit is for Charlie, the analogy is strained. Schulman (who also wrote Dead Poets Society) doesn't seem to understand that done-before shtick has to be treated with a certain amount of knowingness to come off or that his naivete isn't charming, and his script spends too much time putting ethnic jokes in the mouths of white-bread characters without engendering laughter at the jokes or with the characters. David Spade as Charlie's roommate rivals Pesci at being better than the material deserves.

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