CINEMA SIGNALS

. "Trixie"

On a scale of adorability, Emily Watson is right up there with the cuddliest. Maybe it's that round face with dimpled chin. So adorable is she that even this sad attempt at comedy didn't spoil the experience of being in her company for a couple of hours. But, then, she's more than just an attractive person. This actress' talents are wide-ranging and a sample of that can be found in the film that brought her to American prominence in the powerful 1996 drama, "Breaking the Waves", a Best Foreign Language film winner. All of which is to suggest she stick to drama ("Angela's Ashes, 1999") but we should probably forgive her the miscalculation of trying to break out of it by attempting to make "Trixie" work.

As Trixie Zurbo, she's Mrs. Malaprop, "thumb in cheek" all the way. Unfortunately, so is the total effect. The character is sympathetic but a bit too spacey for the sustained bonding that Alan Rudolph, director and co-writer, and John Binder, writer, undoubtedly wished for.

Trixie is a security guard with the ambition to graduate to the level of private detective. What with her majorly distracting Chicago accent and a speaking style on a par with Mike Tyson's, one quickly gets the impression that she should stick with her day job, for which she's decidedly underqualified.

But no, the auteurs would have us believe that she would be given a job in a casino, watching for pick pockets and other low-life criminals. Immediately, she's targetted by local Don Juan, Dex Lang (Dermot Mulroney) who prowls the casino on his hours off from his real job as skipper of local mob boss Red Rafferty's (Will Patton) yacht. It's just a small leap that finds her on the boat as Rafferty and Senator Drummond Avery (Nick Nolte) are discussing a land deal in terms that are replete with clues for our pretty little sleuth to follow in uncovering a plot, a murder and other contrivances.

Oh, the lack of cleverness in all of it. Nolte plays his part like he's doing outtakes from Dick Tracy, the comic strip movie. What he lacks in comedic timing and understatement he more than makes up for in facial and vocal exaggeration.

Unfortunately, ambition in a doll like Trixie just doesn't fit, and the ride she takes us on is pure fantasyland. This is the disconnect that the writer-director couldn't see. Something closer to plausibility might have given this wrong-way comedy a chance. Watson, however, gives it her best.

Rated O for Off.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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