Directed by Mark Joffe

Starring Janeane Garofalo, David O'Hara, Milo O'Shea, Jay O. Sanders & Denis Leary

"The Matchmaker"

Opened: October 3, 1997 | Rated: R

I came in to "The Matchmaker" a few minutes late, and the first line of dialogue I heard was "I was just rubbing Muffy."

Turns out the guy was talking about his dog, of course, but I knew right then this movie was in trouble. A romantic comedy that depends on puerile innuendo for it's laughs is doomed.

I had high hopes for "The Matchmaker." Starring Janeane Garofalo (who makes me laugh helplessly) as a senatorial aide visiting Ireland in search of the senator's roots for campaign fodder, I was ready to settle in for some rich, comic cynicism.

Then the plot came galloping along. It seems Marcy (Garofalo) has landed at Ballinagra, Ireland just in time for the annual matchmaking festival.

Garofalo balanced romance with her jaded nature quite well in her first foray into romantic comedy, "The Truth About Cats & Dogs", but "The Matchmaker" has little whimsy and even less heart. It trades entirely on her ability to flash a disarmingly sweet smile, which she does, ad nauseam.

Every bachelor in town lines up to propose to her, but Sean (David O'Hara) seems the most determined. He's a drunk and a slacker. She can't stand him. It's fate.

Director Mark Joffe ("Cosi") plunks the couple down in the middle of picturesque Celtic ruins and lathers the getting-to-know-you scenes with poignant piano and new age saxophone. But Garofalo and O'Hara have zero chemistry and, even when she succumbs to her alleged affection, they seem like folks having polite conversation on a blind date.

Each chapter of the movie is introduced by Milo O'Shea, playing the town's champion matchmaker. He provides a lead in for forcibly quaint splashes of local color (Marcy judges a singing contest) and prattles on about the validity of certain romantic clichés, as if he were trying to justify the screenplay.

"Sooner or later," he says, "every couple leans down to pick something up at the same time and bonk heads." Therefore the movie is full of guys and gals bonking heads.

Occasionally the fact that Marcy is in Ireland at the behest of the senator resurfaces and she trots around researching his family tree (it turns out he's not Irish after all).

But this plot line doesn't have any more integrity than the romance once we're asked to buy that she has qualms about faking a family reunion. She's a high ranking campaign aide for a philandering U.S. senator, for Pete's sake.

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