Film review: It’s love at first sight for ‘Ira & Abby’

  • (Starring Chris Messina, Jennifer Westfeldt, Frances Conroy, Fred Willard, Robert Klein and Judith Light. Directed by Robert Cary. Rated R; 1:45. Starts Friday at the Village 8 Theatres. LEO Report Card: B+)

“Why not take a shot? I mean, half of all marriages end in divorce anyway. We probably have as good a chance as anyone,” says Abby to Ira, whom she met six hours ago when he came into her gym looking to join. As head of the membership department, Abby gave him a two-minute tour while snacking on McDonald’s fries, then spent the rest of the time spilling out her life’s ambitions and manifests. The neurotic, therapy-addicted Ira shared his own ramblings on life and love — where he’s headed, where he’s been … how he can never make a decision on his own, even if it’s as simple as what to eat for lunch that day. The chemistry in this scene between Ira (Chris Messina) and Abby (Jennifer Westfeldt) is unmistakable and charming, which can be said for the entire film, as we watch the protagonists fall in love on the way to the aisle and get caught up in the baggage that’s not far behind — the in-laws and the parents and the exes, and you know.

Written by Jennifer Westfeldt, “Ira & Abby” is her sophomore release to 2001’s breakout hit “Kissing Jessica Stein.” Currently she can be seen on ABC’s “Notes From the Underbelly,” and she even has a local connection — she starred in Stu Pollard’s “Keep Your Distance” a few years ago. (Pollard is co-producer on this film; see The Back Lot for more on that.)

Rounding out the cast are Frances Conroy and Fred Willard as Abby’s unstructured, carefree parents, and Judith Light and Robert Klein as Ira’s bitter, cynical mom and dad.
Is marriage for everyone? Is there a thing called love at first sight? Is therapy the root of all evil? “Ira & Abby” doesn’t answer these questions, but it puts a nice spin on the issues that creep into all relationships, new and old. —Sara Havens


‘Golden Compass’
loses its way  
(Starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Dakota Blue Richards and Sam Elliott. Directed by Chris Weitz. Rated PG-13; 1:58. LEO Report Card: D)

Two polar bears wearing chain-link armor yell threats at each other and fight to the death in “The Golden Compass.” At first glance, these ice bears resemble their cuddly CGI brethren in Coca-Cola’s warm-and-fuzzy holiday ad. And then one of the beasts rips off his opponent’s lower jaw and breaks his neck. Season’s greetings from Hollywood.

The remaining mayhem in “Compass” mainly involves witches wielding bows and arrows, which somehow is a lot less cool than it sounds. The movie’s action lacks the finesse of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy’s inventive battles. The dull, workmanlike fights more closely resemble those in “Troy” and “Kingdom of Heaven.”
Spectacle is about all “Compass” has going for it. But director Paul Weitz (who ably helmed the melancholy-tinged comedy “About a Boy”) is so consumed with infusing every frame with visual wonders that he forgets to actually make them wondrous. As a result, the movie is like last summer’s “Stardust” — it’s both frantic and lifeless.

Hoping to jumpstart a franchise based on the first novel in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy, this film is overburdened by star power — Nicole Kidman, new Bond Daniel Craig and Eva Green — in roles that are undercooked partly by design. Weitz, who also wrote the screenplay, hopscotches along interminable stretches of exposition that grasps for the mythic but stumbles into vague allusions that never resonate.

A brief list of the clumsily connected strands of plot that I could decipher: 1) A girl (Dakota Blue Richards) obtains a truth-telling compass; 2) Every human has a companion animal that contains his or her soul; 3) Nicole Kidman runs an operation that abducts children and separates them from their animals/souls; 4) The actors often frown while talking about the corrupting power of “dust.”
At least the bears kicked ass. —Jamie Peters