Mark Reviews Movies


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Bruno Barreto

Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Mark Ruffalo, Mike Myers, Candice Bergen, Kelly Preston, Rob Lowe

MPAA Rating:  (for language/sexual references)

Running Time: 1:27

Release Date: 3/21/03

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Review by Mark Dujsik

There's possibly no worse movie-going experience than sitting through a comedy with no laughs, but there's probably no more disappointing cinematic experience than sitting through one that only elicits occasional smiles. The latter (fortunately, considering the comparison) is the case with View from the Top, a laugh-less but not entirely obnoxious comedy. What we have here is a movie that could have succeeded as a wacky farce or a pleasantly straightforward take on a woman following her dreams, but instead, View from the Top tries to do both with incredibly little success. Eclectic characters and situations are mixed with sappy, saccharine sentimentality. The farce doesn't work because it's played straight, and the fluffy inspirational material doesn't work because, well, we've seen it so many times and would much rather have the off-the-wall stuff. The mixture comes out flat, proving once again that you can't have it both ways unless you try really, really hard. The effort in this case is minimal at best.

Donna (Gwyneth Paltrow) has a great sense of drive but very small dreams. It all started with her childhood. She had a less than favorable family life; her mother married a lazy, drunken man who did nothing but lie on the couch. Now that I think about it, it's surprising there's no emotional mother/daughter reconciliation scene later in the movie. Anyway, she meets and dates a star football player—the kind of guy who can get her out of her rut. And he does. Yes, he eventually becomes the manager of a local superstore (Big Lots, for those who know the place), and as a perk, she gets a job. Everything's going fine until he has a surprise for her in the form of breaking up with her in a birthday card ("They don't make breaking up cards" (True, and it gives me an idea)). I'm once again surprised that he doesn't show up later for a "look at what I'm doing without you" scene. But I digress, and there's still Donna's inspiration to become a flight attendant and see the world. So she takes a job at a fourth-rate airline that flies from Fresno to Laughlin, Nevada and slowly works her way into the big leagues at Royalty Airlines.

Sound funny? Well, it isn't. The script by Eric Wald (how good it feels to be able to cite one screenwriter for a bad screenplay) has a limited number of jokes. Let's see, there's the instructor John Whitney played by Mike Myers, a man with a lazy eye and a chip on his shoulder. I will admit that Myers brought me closest to laughing with his random outburst about eye tests. Then there's Donna's small-town attitude, which gets push away (along with Gwyneth Paltrow's accent) once she becomes really good at flight attending. Then there's… really not much else. Early on, Donna meets Ted (Mark Ruffalo), a law school dropout (with only a semester to go before graduation—what a catch!) who becomes the center of a pathetic attempt at romance. The movie gets overwhelmingly and unconvincingly serious near the end as Donna has to choose between her guy and her job. Why must this material end up revolving around whether or not a couple we know and care nothing about stays together?

And why must it be so when there are other characters with much more potential waiting it out in the background or disappearing far too soon? Take Myers' Whitney, for example. Here's a character that seems prime for whatever unconventional humor into which the movie might venture. Once his training montage is over, though, he's completely out of place. Then there's Candice Bergen, who plays a leading flight attendant, a faux motivational author, and Donna's idol. She does a solid job with the little she's given. In fact, until she becomes a legitimate inspirational source for Donna, giving poignant and helpful speeches in difficult times, she's the most amusing thing in the movie. There is a pair of likable and potentially viable characters who end up with, what are essentially, cameos. Kelly Preston plays Donna's guide in her early days, and Rob Lowe turns up for a scene as a co-pilot. And, wait. Was that George Kennedy as one of the first-class passengers? Apparently, yes indeed, it was, although that's a real cameo. Preston would probably have made a better teammate in Donna's career than Christina Applegate's rival, and Lowe certainly would have made a more charming romantic foil than a far too serious Mark Ruffalo playing an uninteresting partner.

Even Paltrow seems out of place in View from the Top, and that's saying a lot. I am, admittedly, a bit smitten by the actress with the look of a classic movie star and usually an attitude and personality that goes along with it. But she's quite bland here, except during the outtakes, when she's shows how goofy she can be. Can we see this Gwyneth in a movie some time?

Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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