I'll Do Anything (1994)

"You didn't do the quack." - Albert Brooks to Nick Notle

Nick Nolte sings!  At least that was the intention of writer/director
James L. Brooks, who originally filmed I'LL DO ANYTHING as a musical
complete with songs written by Prince and Sinead O'Conner!  But lousy
test scores-- in addition to audiences that literally walked out during
the songs-- prompted Brooks to reshoot and restructure his film. The
non-musical result is a charming, but dreadfully slow, romantic comedy.

The plot revolves around veteran character actor Matt Hobbs (Nick
Nolte).  He's so desperate for work that he's taken a job as chauffeur
to movie producer Burke Adler (Albert Brooks). Hobbs has been handed his
6-year-old daughter, whom he hasn't seen in two years and now has to
raise on his own. He's also attracted to one of Adler's staff members--
Cathy (Joely Richardson), a charming development executive with designs
on restarting his career.

Needless to say, the actor quickly realizes that bachelorhood and
fatherhood don't always go together.

The story's second tier accompanies Adler. His relationship with Nan
Mulhanney (Julie Kavner), an audience-tester and dating skeptic, is under
stress because the self-obsessed producer of "Popcorn Pictures" can't
calm down. He's bugged because his latest actioner is getting lousy
"scores." To add insult to injury, the only time his calls are returned
is at lunch. When he's not there.

All this, set against the seemingly exciting and no-longer-musical world
of motion picture and television production!

Handsomely shot and very well-written, I'LL DO ANYTHING is, simply,
s-l-o-w.  Here and there, a couple scenes move like the better Brooks
comedies BROADCAST NEWS and TERMS OF ENDEARMENT.  But the bulk of it is
a lazy insider-look at moviemaking with a sitcom-cute kid angle.

Which doesn't work 'cause this kid ain't cute. In fact, she's downright
obnoxious!  Up until one whopper of a cloying ending, newcomer Whittni
Wright gives a very remarkable performance. But she acts just like a
6-year-old brat. And that's NO fun to watch.

Dad's quite a draw, though. Even when sporting a long-haired wig that
makes him look like Ron Perlman's "Beast," Nick Nolte gets off one of
his best (and most subtle) roles in a while. His chemistry with
Richardson is good, too!

If Nolte gets the best scenes, Albert Brooks gets all the good lines. As
the self-absorbed Adler, he even gets a classic monologue in which he
describes a field of "exploding windmills." Forget those fictional Joel
Silvers; this is a megalomaniac to remember!

Oddly, both Tracey Ullman and Julie Kavner seem miscast.  Ullman is
barely watchable in her scenes, sporting a Bad Southern Accent as
Notle's jail-bound wife. Kavner is more watchable, albeit unappealing,
but she doesn't have the fire to match Brooks' raging gloom. Only
Richardson stands strong on the female front.

Watch for a few cameos, including Woody Harrelson and Kavner's
"Simpsons" costar Harry Shearer.

One question lingers: who is the intended audience?  If mainstream
America didn't want to hear Nick Nolte sing, can they also appreciate
the jokes about "target audiences" and "test scores?"  (Rated "PG"/113

BOTTOM LINE:  Sweet, but slow comedy about a character actor, his kid,
and his career.  Intended as a musical, but recut after terrible test

Grade: B

Copyright 1994 by Michael J. Legeros

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