Directed by Andy Tennant

Starring Matthew Perry & Salma Hayek.

"Fools Rush In"

Opened: Friday, February 14, 1997
Rated: PG

"Fools Rush In" will go down in Hollywood history as the first romantic comedy about a guy who marries a girl because he knocks her up.

Aww. Isn't that sweet? Well...No, not especially.

Another starring vehicle for a "Friends" cast member -- this time Matthew Perry (Chandler on the hit TV show) -- this charmless modern love tome can be added to what is becoming a long list of big screen mistakes for that show's cast.

Perry stars as a Manhattan corporate climber staying in Las Vegas while he oversees the building of a nightclub. He meets a girl at a restaurant and takes her to bed without the film bothering to provide much of a spark between them. It then jumps to the next morning as she sneaks out of his bed, presumably never to be seen again until she turns up on his doorstep three months later and three months pregnant.

The girl is Salma Hayek, the vivacious and promising actress who practically stole "Desperado" from the steamy Antonio Banderas. An up-and-coming talent, she should be ashamed of herself for taking such a stereotyped part -- the "fiery Mexican American," to quote the press kit.

She convinces Perry to come on a family picnic and pose as her boyfriend, so when her folks find out she's pregnant she can say they met the father once. He agrees to play along (it's the least he can do) and is subsequently put through the wringer by aunts, cousins and brothers.

On the way home he proposes to her in a fit of fawning romance, declaring that suddenly his life makes sense. Dull, clumsy and unconvincing, it may be the worst scripted proposal speech ever put to film.

But she says yes anyway and they begin a life of getting used to each other, with all the cultural and habitual accouterments. She redecorates the house in fiesta prints and crucifixes, he waxes uneasy about sharing a bathroom. Her father wants to kill him and her brothers nearly do in a hunting/bonding scene. His New England country club parents show up out of the blue, which starts an argument because he hasn't told them the good news. And so on.

In one of the few scenes that is consistently funny, Perry and Hayek take all four parents boating on Lake Mead, leading to culture clashes and arguments about whose kid is at fault for this fiasco.

"Fools" tries hard to be cute playing her outgoing family against his retentive folks, using squirrels as a euphemism for racial harmony and throwing in a axiom-spouting old grandmother for good measure.

But Hayek and Perry have no chemistry and the screenplay no magic. The dialogue is devoid of the flirtatious charm that brings romance alive on screen and the last hour, which could have been wrapped in 15 minutes, is buried in an avalanche of music video montages that deaden what little pace the movie had.

What's worse, Perry is the least convincing romantic lead since Keanu Reeves in "A Walk in the Clouds". He just can't play straight without looking strained and should stick to his trademark one-liners.

"Fools Rush In" trades on the dissimilarity between the lovers, taking their problems so far as to have them separate before the baby is born. The story would be over in one act if the characters had the good sense to level with each other, and it's hard to sympathize with people who regularly hide their feelings in the name of comedy.

Director Andy Tennant ("It Takes Two") even manages to ruin a brilliantly set up reconciliation scene and the delivery of the baby.

The film's one saving grace is Siobhan Fallon (the school bus driver in "Forrest Gump") as Hayek's best friend. She sits in for the audience, becoming dry and droll at each abortive romantic gesture.

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