Angelina Jolie has the kind of insolent glow most of the classic bad-girl screen beauties had: Dietrich, Monroe, Bardot. But in a way, Jolie is also the James Dean of modern young female movie stars: explosive and innocent, vulnerable and scary, defiantly sexy and intriguingly edgy - and also such a gifted actress she could probably hold the screen with sheer talent.
That's why it's dispiriting to see her in a slick, phony big-star vehicle like director Stephen Herek's "Life or Something Like It," wasting herself (and a good supporting cast) on a story that requires little more than an average pretty actress who can wear clothes well and laugh and cry on cue.
Jolie gives much more. As Lanie Kerrigan, the star Seattle TV newswoman who suddenly discovers she may have only a week to live, she breathes some life and suspense into one of those high-concept romantic-comedy premises that sells better than it plays. But as good as Jolie is - and as well-supported as she is by Edward Burns as her unshaven, what-the-hell cameraman, Pete, and Tony Shalhoub as street preacher Prophet Jack - they're wasting their own time, if not always ours.
"Live each day as if it's your last," suggests a common cliche, and that's the theme of "Life or Something Like It." Jolie's Lanie is a high-flying, bleached-blond newswoman who discovers fate may be knocking when she interviews shaggy street Nostradamus Prophet Jack and he predicts the exact score of that night's Seahawks football game, an impending hailstorm and her death. At the time, Lanie is a golden girl on the brink of New York and network stardom. Her boyfriend is a Seattle Mariners star (Christian Kane as the improbably yuppie-ish Cal Cooper), and she's risen from the movie's idea of humble origins to become a yuppie princess. Then, when both the Seahawks score and the storm pan out, shocked Lanie begins taking risks - at work and play.
Soon, she ditches baseballer Cal, whose idea of consoling her is to take her to batting practice, and starts up what we all knew was coming: a flaming affair with Burns' sarcastic, showerless Pete, hitherto her sexually antagonistic nemesis. She also shows up plowed for an on-camera interview at a public employees strike and leads the strikers, on camera, in a rousing chorus of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." None of this stops her slide to success. And on the day of her predicted death, she's in New York City, leaving behind disapproving Pete (who's already been there, done that) and for her first assignment turning the tables on haughty TV interview queen Deborah Connors (Stockard Channing), whom she reduces to tears and anger in record time. What does fate portend? I won't even try to hint, because "Life or Something Like It" has an ending (or something like it) that's predictable and senseless.
I'm partial to movies that suggest money and success aren't everything, because so much of pop culture says the opposite. But "Life," though funny and sometimes charming, doesn't give Lanie a believable context in which to stop and smell the roses. Her rebellion is a bit childish: not taking showers, listening to punk rock, dumping a Mariner, standing up to a Barbara Walters or this movie's Channing, and singing "Satisfaction" at strikes. Can't successful people in New York do all of that and more? The movie suggests nothing more profound than that you should drain the cup until your number's up and live, live, live until you die - or at least until you reach the credit roll of "Life or Something Like It."
Director Herek regularly takes mediocre scripts - "The Mighty Ducks," "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," "101 Dalmatians" (the live-action one) and "The Three Musketeers" (the 1993 teen-slanted one) - and makes popular, entertaining movies. I suppose you could say he has a golden touch, but it's more of a huckster's knack; his "live each day" message here is about as convincing as Jolie's bleached-blond hair.
By the way, if you're wondering why Shalhoub's Prophet Jack is still a street person when he can infallibly predict the winner and point spread in prime sporting events, the movie keeps it a secret to the end. Maybe it's an Off-Track Betting lockout. Or maybe Jack believes in smelling the roses, too.
2 1/2 stars
"Life or Something Like It"
Directed by Stephen Herek; written by John Scott Shepherd and Dana Stevens; photographed by Stephen H. Burum; edited by Trudy Ship; production designed by Bill Groom; music by David Newman; produced by Arnon Milchan, John Davis, Chi-Li Wong, Toby Jaffe. A 20th Century Fox release of a Regency Enterprises presentation; opens Friday, April 26. Running time: 1:44. MPAA rating: PG-13 (sexual content, brief violence, language).
Lanie - Angelina Jolie
Pete - Edward Burns
Prophet Jack - Tony Shalhoub
Deborah Connors - Stockard Channing
Cal - Christian Kane Lanie's Father - James Gammon
Michael Wilmington is the Chicago Tribune movie critic.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times