You will wish that on the way in, the multiplex had offered you valium along with their popcorn.
"One Fine Day" is one of those lighter-than-air comedies Hollywood did so well in the 1930s--the kind where he and she meet and become a reluctant couple who then argue their way through a maze of silliness before falling into each other's arms at fade-out time. This time it's Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney instead of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. If the movie works for you, it will be because of them.
Mel (Ms. Pfeiffer) is the divorced mom of mop-top Sammy (Alex D. Linz); Jack (Mr. Clooney) is the divorced dad of animal-loving Maggie (Mae Whitman). They meet in a flurry of single-parent confusion when their children miss the boat for the school field trip. Smushed into a New York cab on a rainy day, Mel and Jack spend the ride on their cellular phones trying to solve their childcare problems.
This is a day they must meet crucial career demands. She must present and sell the architectural model she has designed for a developer. He must substantiate a story he has just written for the Daily News implicating the mayor in a garbage scandal. But now their children, aged 4 and 6, are with them instead of on the Circle Line.
You can imagine the rest. It's overwritten, overwrought, and overblown, but it's not overacted. Pfeiffer and Clooney each have an intelligent kind of charm that translates into an easygoing chemistry. The children are surprisingly believable, and Mae Whitman, with improbable restraint, makes Maggie very touching in her innocence.
It is an unusual plus that both principals seem thoroughly comfortable with children. George Clooney even looks just right holding a teddy bear and a kitten. You will remember a fine moment when Michelle Pfeiffer tells her boss and customers why she is going to her son's soccer game instead of their obligatory dinner.
Because the leads manage to carry it off, you can almost forget the situations that have to be endured. Extremes and caricatures abound, along with an embarrassingly labored scene between Jack and a therapist. But then there are nice moments. After watching Mel produce maternal miracles from the enormous single-mom bag she carries, Jack wonders, "Where do you get a bag like that?"
An unimportant note: try as she may, Michelle Pfeiffer cannot quite catch the tone of a real New Yorker telling a cab driver what route to take. The real Ms. Pfeiffer is not brittle enough even to assume the frenzied state of a New Yorker late for an appointment.
Frenzy is the tone of this movie, anxiety its driving force, and these qualities assume the stature of a major character. Everyone is always late, rushing through traffic in the rain, telephones attached to their ears. The heart-thumping, stomach-churning pace is made more so by an anxious score. You will wish that on the way in, the multiplex had offered you valium along with their popcorn.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : 20th Century Fox
Rating : PG
Running Time: 1h49m
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