With Matthew Modine, Randy Quaid and Paul Reiser as a trio of divorced dads, "Bye Bye, Love" sounds promising as a serious comedy, but its writers, Gary David Goldberg and Brad Hall, and director, Sam Weisman, betray their TV origins at every turn. Each time they convey the lingering pain of divorce for adults and children alike, they put a sitcom spin on it. Too often the film's raft of characters seems to behave like puppets rather than actual people. Pretty soon you feel as manipulated as they seem to be, with the result that "Bye Bye, Love" gets progressively grimmer, increasingly removed from those moments that suggest what it might have been.
Modine, Reiser and Quaid are pals who gather every Saturday morning at a McDonald's, "neutral territory" where they pick up their kids for the weekend from their ex-wives. Modine is an incessant playboy, Reiser a deeply wounded man still carrying a torch for his wife and having trouble communicating with his indifferent 14-year-old daughter, and Quaid is an angry guy still battling his ex. It's never spelled out, however, what really caused Reiser and Quaid and their wives to split up.
Although Reiser gets a chance to work up some sympathy for his divorce and suggest some dimension to him, all three men, no fault of the fine actors portraying them, grow tiresome in their self-pity. As a result, some of the peripheral people are more likely to engage your attention.
Janeane Garofalo is hilarious as Quaid's date from hell, an incessant kvetch justifying her outrageous behavior in the name of women's liberation. Rob Reiner, too, is pretty funny as an overbearing radio therapist, spouting cliches about the emotional fallout from divorce. Amid all the Sturm und Drang , you can be grateful for Johnny Whitworth and the late Ed Flanders, nice normal types, co-workers at that McDonald's, who strike up a father-and-son relationship. One thing none of these people need worry about is money: They all live in the Pasadena area in grand, elegantly decorated old homes, most of them classics of the Craftsman style.
* MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief language and sensuality. Times guidelines: Some blunt words and some suggestiveness aside, the film is designed for family audiences and is suitable for them.
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'Bye Bye, Love' Matthew Modine: Dave Randy Quaid: Vic Paul Reiser: Donny Janeane Garofalo: Lucille Rob Reiner: Dr. Townsend A 20th Century Fox presentation of an Ubu production. Director Sam Weisman. Producers Gary David Goldberg, Brad Hall and Weisman. Screenplay by Goldberg and Hall. Cinematographer Kenneth Zunder. Editor Roger Bondelli. Music J.A.C. Redford. Production designer Linda DeScenna. Art director Greg Papalia. Set designer Antoinette J. Gordon. Set decorator Ric McElvin. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.