As another summer footy tournament arrives, so does another clutch of movies specifically marketed as refuges for soccer widows. And leading the way is first-time writer/director Bonnie Hunt's Return To Me, a bittersweet modern fable which pairs the assured comic talents of Minnie Driver with a David Duchovny who's still trying to struggle his way out of Spooky Mulder's raincoat.
The central twosome generate just enough electricity between them to keep Hunt's proudly old-fashioned movie-contraption whirring along. Duchovny's all subdued and crumpled, still reeling from his wife's death, yet treating his buddy Charlie's (Grier) attempts to fix him up with another woman with good humour. Driver, meanwhile, successfully pulls off a tricky performance as a woman who is used to being treated like she's made of porcelain by everyone - especially her doting gramps (O'Connor) - but simply wants to get on with life.
The problem is that Hunt insists on making everything so damn twee, in a desperate effort to make us tip our heads to one side, go glassy eyed and sigh whimsically with a vague smile on our faces. There's the gang of loveable old Oirish and Eye-talian rogues, who play cards and argue about crooners and baseball teams. There's Grace's married friend (Hunt herself) with her squealing litter of cute kids. There's Bob's sad-faced dog, who spends all his time waiting for Elizabeth to come back home. And there's even - - Lord help us - - an `amusing' nun-on-a-bicycle moment. Plus, to compound the intensity of this almost unbearable tweeness, the entire movie is drowned in cheesy showtunes.
Considering that the plot's main dramatic thrust comes from the threat of Bob and Grace being repulsed from each other when they finally discover the link between them, you'd expect there to be one or two darker strands woven into the story. But Hunt's evident craving for chirpiness quickly dispels any tension, and there's little to distinguish this from the usual they-meet/they-fall-in-love/they-fall-out/they-finally-get-back together structuring of almost every other Tinseltown rom-com.
Footy-fatigued ladies may well turn to this for their medicine, but Hunt obviously thinks they should be taking it with a whole shovelful of sugar. Duchovny and Driver are fine leads, but a cloying script and excessive sentimentalism quickly bogs them down.