Duets (2000)

Mitchell
Duets (2000). Paul Giamatti, Gwyneth Paltrow, Huey Lewis, Andre Braugher, and Maria Bello. Directed by Bruce Paltrow.

Talk about good ideas and good intentions that just don’t work. Three stories of three pairs of characters on their way to a big karaoke contest in Omaha. The acting’s not bad (except for Lewis, who seems stiff). The dialogue has its moments, but there’s no payoff. Most importantly, the whole framework upon which this movie hangs, the world of karaoke competition, is flimsy and it doesn’t work. The karaoke is more like an excuse to tell these stories, rather than the element that characters find themselves driven by. You can take a silly subject and, with the right treatment, make us understand the characters who dedicate themselves to it, as in Best in Show and Strictly Ballroom. In capable hands, these worlds become something we can laugh at and something we can sympathize with.

The writers of Duets don’t bother. We see the characters on stage, performing “Cruising,” and “Try a Little Tenderness,” but we never really hear them talking with each other about what it’s MEANS for them to be onstage singing these songs. We don’t see them practice, ever, so the scenes where they get onstage seem like happy accidents. We don’t see the characters interacting with each other in karaoke-specific contexts except at the very beginning of the film.

It’s not enough. And because we never really believe in this world to begin with, the gathering of these six people in Omaha seems forced and the plot resolutions unconvincing.

Spare yourself.

3/10.

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