Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sitting Through This Crap Was My Greatest Error: "Trial and Error" (1997)

Michael Richards and Jeff Daniels team in this forgettable legal comedy that telegraphs the entire film in the opening minutes.

Charles (Jeff Daniels) is about to marry the boss' wife, snotty and shallow Tiffany (Alexandra Wentworth). He is a lawyer on the move, but will miss his bachelor party being thrown by his best friend Richard (Michael Richards). Charles must go to Nevada to get a continuance for Benny (Rip Torn), a con artist. Luckily for the audience, Richard is a complete screw-up, an actor who cannot get anything right. He flies out to Nevada and throws the party.

Beautiful waitress Billie (Charlize Theron) helps get Charles rip snorting drunk, and he misses the court date. Okay, hold your sides! Richard appears in his place! The trial is on! They are up against cute prosecutor Elizabeth (Jessica Steen), who Richard hit on the night before! Are you laughing so hard you wanna puke, yet?!

This film could have been an intelligent satire along the lines of "...And Justice for All." Imagine an actor playing a lawyer, and getting away with it! Sure, lawyers are not held in high regard, but this should have been great. Instead, Charles and Billie, despite their complete lack of chemistry, fall for one another. Richard and Elizabeth spar and kiss. We even get the edgy judge, played by poor Austin Pendleton, who does absolutely nothing in a horribly written role. Just when you think the film cannot get any more predictable, the writers throw in the "surprise" visit from Tiffany, and that's when I threw a throw pillow across the room.

The one plus is the location shooting in Independence, California, standing in for Nevada. This town is so beautiful, I want to move there and live in a trailer with a flat tire. If the local women look anything like Theron or Steen, I may start checking bus schedules.

"Trial and Error" is terrible. It is not terrible just because none of the slapstick works. It is not terrible just because I knew what would happen so precisely, I thought I earned at least a co-story credit. It is terrible because with this kind of talent in front of the camera, the director, producers, writers, and everyone else involved blew a golden opportunity to make not only a smart comedy, but a funny one. (*) out of five stars.