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07/10/2006 - THE LAKE HOUSE

THE LAKE HOUSE by Tom McCurrie

Good romances are all about putting obstacles between the lovers, and then having them struggle to overcome those obstacles to be together. This creates plenty of suspense and rooting interest. ROMEO AND JULIET has a terrific obstacle - the lovers are from different families who want to kill each other. No wonder this romance remains popular after hundreds of years. The new Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock romance THE LAKE HOUSE has a terrific obstacle as well - one lover actually lives two years ahead of the other. Unfortunately, THE LAKE HOUSE won't linger in the public's imagination like Shakespeare's classic.

Written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn and based on the well-regarded Korean film SIWORAE (2000), THE LAKE HOUSE is about two people who fall for each other even though they live in two different times - one (Reeves) lives in 2004 while the other (Bullock) lives in 2006. They communicate through letters they leave in the mailbox at the lake house they both live in (Reeves in 2004 and Bullock in 2006) as they try to figure out some way to consummate their growing love. Again, this is a fresh, compelling premise, one that should have led to a memorable screen entertainment.

Sad to say, it doesn't. The time-travel elements, though superficially clever, create some credibility problems. Once they realize they live two years apart, why do Reeves and Bullock continue to communicate by letter? As long as Bullock is using the same phone number she used in 2004 (which is certainly not uncommon), Reeves could call her and establish a more reliable line of communication, one that would stave off some plot complications in the Third Act. What about E-mail or Instant Messaging for that matter? Has the mailbox at the lake house always had the ability to deliver messages across time? If so, why? And why does this ability only surface in 2006? The house was built decades ago, so the mailbox's "powers" should have revealed themselves long before now. Why doesn't Bullock immediately try to find Reeves in 2006? She knows his name, so you would think she'd attempt to track him down through an Internet search or a private detective. Unnecessary plot strands are also an issue. So much time is spent on Reeves' conflict with his domineering father that it distracts from what the audience paid their money to see - the love story.

But the biggest reason THE LAKE HOUSE flounders is that there isn't much chemistry between Bullock and Reeves, and if you don't feel your lead characters make a good couple, there's no reason for you to root for them to be together. Of course, Bullock and Reeves aren't physically together often enough to give them many opportunities to generate chemistry in the first place, but when those opportunities do arise, there's nary a romantic spark to be found. Then again, Bullock and Reeves aren't very appealing when they're by themselves either, which lessens our interest in them even further. Part of this is due to the characters they play. As mentioned above, Reeves is stuck playing a clich?, the rebellious son of a controlling father, while Bullock's character is too underwritten to get a handle on. But it's the performances that really hurt the film. Reeves is his typically wooden self, but the real disappointment is Bullock, who seems locked in a state of constant glumness, as if her dog, cat, goldfish, parakeet and favorite potted plant all died on the same day and she never got over it. She is just too mopey to root for.

That said, there are some strong moments in THE LAKE HOUSE. Along with the nifty premise, there is some nice suspense in the Third Act when one lover tries to bridge time to save the other's life, leading to an effectively tearful conclusion despite the weak Bullock-Reeves chemistry.

Still, that's not enough. In romances, you have to love the characters to love the movie. In THE LAKE HOUSE, unfortunately, we don't love either.

Responses, comments and general two-cents worth can be E-mailed to gillis662000@yahoo.com.

(Note: For all those who missed my past reviews, they're now archived on Hollywoodlitsales.com. Just click the link on the main page and it'll take you to the Inner Sanctum. Love them or Hate them at your leisure!)

A graduate of USC's School of Cinema-Television, Tom McCurrie has worked as a development executive, story analyst, screenwriter and teacher of screenwriting. He lives in Los Angeles and is currently working on his first novel.


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