You've got to hand it to David Schwimmer. Not only did he sign on as an executive producer of "Kissing a Fool," he also turned over the picture to his co-star, Jason Lee, who made a strong impression in last year's "Chasing Amy."
That's because Schwimmer's Chicago sportscaster, Max, is too often obnoxious rather than likable while Lee gets considerable opportunity to reveal charm as Max's best pal Jay, a budding novelist.
It's no great gift Lee is getting, for "Kissing a Fool" is romantic comedy at its slightest and most contrived, passable date-night fare for the easily diverted and as disposable as an empty popcorn bag.
As a local celebrity, Max is an unabashed playboy, but Jay thinks that his lovely and dedicated editor, Samantha (Mili Avital) might just be the woman Max could take seriously. It's an instance of opposites attracting, for Max, proud of his disdain for books, and Sam, who has no interest in sports events, swiftly become caught up in a passionate affair--so passionate that Max proposes marriage after only two weeks.
Schwimmer has his best moments when Max starts having second thoughts: Is he really prepared to accept the idea that there are to be no other women in his life? Such a notion is entirely in keeping with the kind of man Max is, but it inspires him to make a hare-brained decision. He insists that Jay try to seduce Samantha, figuring that if she has the capacity to be faithful to him, maybe he can summon the resolution to be faithful to her.
Max has got to be pretty dense not to notice that Jay has more in common with Samantha than he does. In fact, Jay, getting over heartbreak from a breakup, finds Samantha most attractive but understandably thinks making any moves on her would complicate their working relationship.
But work takes Max out of town a lot, and Sam and Jay, who has rejected Max's proposal, do spend an awful lot of time on developing that novel. . . . You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce what's going to happen next.
Director Doug Ellin and his co-writer, James Frey, haven't come up with anything to freshen up the plot. Otherwise solidly crafted, "Kissing a Fool" works best as a showcase for Avital as well as Lee, both of whose roles have some dimension. Bonnie Hunt is fun as a tough, gossipy publisher. With luck, Schwimmer will survive this trifle.
* MPAA rating: R, for strong language. Times guidelines: The film also includes some sensuality.
'Kissing a Fool'
David Schwimmer: Max Abbitt
Jason Lee: Jay Murphy
Mili Avital: Samantha Andrews
Bonnie Hunt: Linda
A Universal Pictures presentation. Director Doug Ellin. Producers Tag Mendillo, Andrew Form and Rick Lashbrook. Executive producers David Schwimmer and Stephen Levinson. Screenplay by James Frey and Ellin; from a story by Frey. Cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth. Editor David Finfer. Costumes Sue Kaufmann. Music Joseph Vitarelli. Production designer Charles Breen. Set decorator Tricia Schneider. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.