Courtesy Photo
Directed by Michael Hoffman

Starring Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney.

"One Fine Day"

Opened: December 20, 1996 | Rated: PG

It is so frustrating to sit in a movie theater is watching an enjoyable film turn sour and knowing exactly what went wrong. "If it's so obvious to me why didn't the director see it too?" I ask myself.

The last 20 minutes of "One Fine Day" is heavy with this frustration. A winsome, almost sublime romantic comedy for the first hour, this movie goes downhill fast in the last act with an overdose of cutesy kids and two of those dreadful musical montage sequences -- a song from the soundtrack is played in its entirety while the leads are MTV edited through dancing in puddles and standing in front of slow-motion sunsets.

In her first tolerable movie since "Dangerous Liaisons," Michelle Pfeiffer returns to her penchant for comedy that did her a good turn in "Married to the Mob."

Here she's an architect and a single mom who splits child care duties for a day with George Clooney (from TV's "E.R."), her best friend's ex-husband, after they fail to get their kids to school in time for a field trip.

She's a many-balls-in-the-air control freak and he's an irresponsible boob of a dad (he offers his daughter a Tic Tac when she complains she's hungry) who is much more romantic and dependable than he appears. And, of course, he has Clooney's beguiling charisma so she's bound to fall for him.

The characters aren't terribly original -- some of Pfeiffer's traits are shamelessly lifted from "When Harry Met Sally" and "Broadcast News" -- but the performances are charming. This is especially true of Clooney, whose trademark mannerisms have helped catapult him into leading man roles.

After much early bickering about who is at fault over the field trip fiasco (Clooney's ex had made arrangements for Pfeiffer to take the kids to school but he forgot to call her when his plans changed), they agree to watch each others kids while each of them rescue their respective jobs.

He's a newspaper columnist whose source on a city hall scandal has changed his story and made Clooney look like a liar. She's an architect with a contract hinging on her presentation that afternoon.

The second act consists almost entirely of the children wreaking havoc on the day of both grown-up's by disappearing in downtown Manhattan, having marbles lodged in nostrils and generally getting underfoot. While these antics are tiresome, they give each smitten parent a chance to quiz the kids about the other and establish an more '90s take on this shopworn genre.

But once they've each weathered an adventure with the kids and Pfeiffer has walked out on her meeting explaining with dignity that her son is her first priority, the film goes flat.

They part company at their kids' dinner-time soccer game and it feels like the end of the story, but there hasn't even been a kiss yet. So I check my watch, adjust in my seat and watch them try to resuscitate the movie for another 20 minutes.

All the problems with "One Fine Day" came in the editing. This could have been one of the better romances of the year, but too much time is spent on increasingly tedious asides that take away from the lively chemistry between Pfeiffer and Clooney. By the time they make moves toward each other on the screen, boredom is rampant in the aisles.

Lose the musical montages, cut one scene with the kids, re-edit the transition from the soccer game to the evening rendezvous, and this picture might have lived up to it's potential. But there's nothing fun or romantic about wishing you'd seen a shorter movie.

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