Whole Nine Yards, The

The Whole Nine Yards (15)

SUBURBAN Chicago dentist Oz Oseransky (Matthew Perry) hates his job, his life and his adopted country – Canada.

But most of all he hates his wife. Anxious for a divorce, he can only helplessly give in to his wife’s endless demands for cash while she and her monstrous mother take him for all they can get. Things can’t seem to get much worse.

When a new neighbour moves in up the hill, Oz ambles over to say hello. Jimmy Jones (Bruce Willis) appears friendly enough, but Oz is astounded when he spots a giveaway tattoo on Jimmy’s arm.

He is, in fact, notorious Mafia hitman Jimmy ‘The Tulip’ Tudeski, a man who has killed 17 people and who is now looking for the quiet life in sleepy Canada.

Suddenly Oz finds himself embroiled in a succession of adventures – with Jimmy, with Jimmy’s gargantuan pal Frankie, and with the Gogolak family, a bunch of East European thugs (headed by Kevin Pollack, having fun with a bad accent) looking to bump off Jimmy.

Stuck in the middle of a Mafia war, with a crazy wife angling to have him shot by the legions of hitmen suddenly infesting the area like locusts, Oz just wants a return to the quiet life. Dentistry was never like this!

The Whole Nine Yards is not a bad movie but, like many others of late, its laughs are rationed throughout its 116 minutes and most of the best are to be seen in the trailer. As a piece of comedy it works extremely well, but the key to that success is in the casting of Perry.

A master of physical comedy – something which he has never really been able to adequately exploit within the confines of his role in Friends – Perry here demonstrates his skills as the natural successor to, say, the young Steve Martin. He’s that good.

He scores particularly highly against Willis, who seems content to meander through the film using the same lazy smirk, whispered drawl and machismo which has permeated so much of his output.

Willis’ loss is Perry’s gain. He gives 110 per cent and steals almost every scene from the willing Willis and Michael Clarke Duncan as Frankie. It’s a plum role in the tradition of Keaton or Chaplin – Keystone Kops-style slapstick with a decidedly modern bent.

Perry benefits hugely from the comedy expertise of director Jonathan Lynn, the mastermind behind much of the success of TV’s Yes, Minister, but the padding in The Whole Nine Yards is painfully evident and even he cannot muster the genuine belly laughs to save it.

In the end it is merely just another so-so comedy styled for Willis to wisecrack and play the smart tough guy. Perry seems to have strayed from a different film, yet whenever he is on screen, a smile isn’t far away.

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