Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wake Me When Peter Gallagher's Eyebrows Twitch: "While You Were Sleeping" (1995)

It's ironic that a romantic comedy about a woman in love with a man in a coma only comes to life after the guy wakes up.

Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is a lonely clerk for the Chicago Transit Authority. She pines after handsome Peter (Peter Gallagher), a train passenger she's never spoken with. Peter almost gets hit by a train after falling on the tracks, Lucy saves him, and follows him to the hospital. After Lucy professes her unrequited love, a nurse overhears her and assumes she is his fiancee. Peter's large family also believes the mistake, and Lucy follows along so as not to shock the weak heart of Peter's grandmother Elsie (the always wonderful Glynis Johns).

Lucy is accepted by Peter's parents (Micole Mercurio, and Peter Boyle- field testing his Frank character from "Everybody Loves Raymond"), little sister Mary (a barely noticeable Monica Keena), family friend Sol (Jack Warden), and overly skeptical brother Jack (Bill Pullman). Lucy joins the family for Christmas, lucking her way through her pretend relationship with Peter. She soon finds herself drawn to Jack; Sol and Lucy's boss Jerry (the underrated Jason Bernard) knows the truth, and then one day Peter wakes up...and that's when the complications and laughs increase.

"While You Were Sleeping" drove me crazy, and not in a good way. Bullock is good, but she was a more effective ugly duckling in the otherwise laughless "Love Potion #9." She crinkles her nose and squints her eyes more than a Meg Ryan caught in headlights, but she's still good. Bill Pullman is so laid back as Jack, he elicits a yawn every time he appears onscreen. Ally Walker isn't brought out until near the end as Peter's real girlfriend, and she's funny. Likewise with Gallagher. When Peter wakes up, he begins reevaluating his life with Lucy, a woman he's never met, and his self-observations are great.

Not funny is the hour or so of running time the viewer must suffer through waiting for Peter to wake up. The film is so bland! There is no edge, no screwball comedy, just Bullock crinkling and squinting, while Pullman squints and crinkles right back. They slip and fall in the snow while the non-stop Randy Edelman crappy jank musical score constantly reminds us how quirky and funny someone out there thought this was. There is a subplot about the family thinking Lucy is pregnant, but that is dropped faster than you can sneeze. Landlord's son Joe Jr.'s (Michael Rispoli) pursuit of Lucy is so badly written it had to have been lifted from an episode of ABC's old TGIF lineup. Even after Peter wakes, things are funnier, but not at their funniest. Lucky he did wake, or this would have been a one-star rating.

Sure, the title begs to be mocked, but "While You Were Sleeping" did seal Bullock's megastar status, opening the door to such work as "Speed 2: Cruise Control" and "Premonition"...okay, now I'm just angry with this film. (* * *) out of five stars.