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A bland and unoriginal 'Stealing Time' wastes ours

The recycled 'St. Elmo's Fire' might make for a pleasant diversion if all the elements worked.

October 03, 2003|Kevin Crust | Times Staff Writer

There's a point in the drama "Stealing Time" when a character tells a friend who has just suggested that they rob a bank, "This is not a movie!" He's got a point there. It's not a movie. It's a lot of movies, all of which you've seen before.

The film's tagline -- "If 'St. Elmo's Fire,' 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Dog Day Afternoon' collided in Los Angeles, the result would be 'Stealing Time' " -- names three influences the film proudly borrows from but in truth underlines its lack of originality. There's not a character, situation or line of dialogue that feels fresh or as if it came from someone's imagination or life experience instead of experience with movies.

Directed and co-written by Marc Fusco, a former personal assistant to Steven Spielberg, "Stealing Time" might make for a nice diversion if all the recycled elements melded. Unfortunately, the leap from late-night, beer-fueled philosophizing to seize-the-day posturing and a pasted-on caper leaves the characters searching for a movie to call their own.

Like "St. Elmo's Fire," the 1985 brat pack film directed by Joel Schumacher, "Stealing" follows a group of recent college grads (Peter Facinelli, Scott Foley, Charlotte Ayanna and Ethan Embry) as they try to make their way armed only with one another and the belief that a diploma entitles them to happiness and good-paying jobs.

The friends -- and it is only in a movie like this that four people this different would be friends -- graduate from the University of Oregon and scatter to follow their dreams.

The group's leader is Alec -- which also is the name of Judd Nelson's character in "St. Elmo's" -- played by Facinelli, whose portentous and pretentious voice-over lets us know this is not a comedy. Alec, charismatic in a superficial and arrogant "Jerry Maguire" way, is an assistant to an agent while attempting to package his own project. All very "Swimming With Sharks."

Alec settles in Los Angeles with his earnest roommate Trevor (Embry), who is struggling to make it as an actor, where they are joined by their equally adrift pals.

Foley plays Casey, the group's wanderer who travels the country in a van searching for a lost love (Jennifer Garner in a brief cameo), which leads him to L.A. While passing through Utah, he picks up the quartet's female member, Samantha (Ayanna), who has just dumped her boyfriend.

Once the foursome is reunited, "Stealing Time" is stricken with a nasty case of melodrama when one of the four falls terminally ill, a ticking clock on the soundtrack punctuating the character's lack of time.

The revelatory nature of the experience prompts the character to decide that armed robbery is just the path to nirvana he and his friends need.

The four actors are very good, and it's a shame they aren't working from a more focused and original concept. Written by Fusco and Michael Garrity, there's nothing awful about "Stealing Time" except that it mixes familiar ingredients with pretty bland results.


'Stealing Time'

MPAA rating: R for some sexual references

Times guidelines: Sex talk is jokey and conversational, nothing shocking

Peter Facinelli...Alec Nichols

Charlotte Ayanna...Samantha Parkes

Ethan Embry...Trevor Logan

Scott Foley...Casey Shepard

Jennifer Garner...Kiley Bradshaw

Magellan Filmed Entertainment presents, a Nickel Palace production, released by Nickel Palace. Director Marc Fusco. Producer Michael Garrity, Mike M. Gabrawy, Tony Romano, Michel Shane. Executive producers Richard Ladd, Patrick Charles. Screenplay by Marc Fusco & Michael Garrity. Cinematographer Stephen Sheridan. Editor Peter Fandetti. Costume designer Nadine Haders. Music Joey Newman. Production designer Macie Vener. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

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