Trial and Error

Trial and Error. New Line Cinema 1997.

Before watching the movie:

Michael Richards possibly trying to break (back) into film. Jeff Daniels, being Jeff Daniels. Courtroom comedy. I’m going in on the assumption that the main reason I never heard of this is the lack of starpower. The writing probably won’t be superb, but it ought to be fun for what it is.

After watching the movie:

Charlie Tuttle just got made a partner at his law firm, which totally has nothing to do with the fact that the boss’s daughter is marrying him next week. His boss asks him to request a continuance at the trial of a relative who ran a pretty evil scam, but one bachelor party, one bar “fight”, and a few really good pills later, he’s in no condition to work. His Best Man, actor Richard Rjetti, fills in for him, posing as Tuttle. Unfortunately, the case doesn’t go to continuance, and Richard is stuck playing lawyer for the length of the case, while Charlie learns to live his own life with help from a local waitress.

Usually, when I expect a film to be middling, I end up finding something better than I felt like it would be. In general, unless I’m really disappointed by a movie, or I’ve underestimated the hate it’s garnered, I like films better than I expected, to the point that I paradoxically expect to like things more than I expect to. This film is remarkably unremarkable, in that I responded to it exactly the way I thought to. Mildly positive ambivalence. Don’t get me wrong, I got engaged in the story, especially Charlie’s self-discovery/romance, but I laughed only as much as I expected, and it hit all the notes I expected it to when I expected it to.

The most surprising source of enjoyment for me was the judge, who reacts to the circus his court becomes in a very funny, non-stereotypical way. Rather than blustering about order, he goes a bit crazy before settling into weariness. I’ve apparently seen the actor before, but never noticed him as much. Meanwhile, Michael Richards demonstrates that he has more range than “Kramer, stupid yet popular kids’ show host from UHF, racist comic.” His character is like a more realistic version of Cosmo Kramer, but with a depth I don’t think he got much chance to show on Seinfeld. Also, as I predicted, Jeff Daniels is Jeff Daniels. It works, don’t knock it.

This is why I’ve been trying to avoid average-looking movies recently. I just spent a few hundred words discussing how average this film is. I had fun, but it didn’t shake anything up for me. It made a little money, and that was all it was supposed to do.


Watch this movie: If you’re a fan of Seinfeld, and it’s handy.

Don’t watch this movie: If you’re not amused by lawyers criticizing unrealistic Hollywood legal procedings while participating in them.

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