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Laramie Movie Scope: Duets

For people with a song in their heart

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 18, 2001 -- Duets is another riff on the old sports-style road movie bit with the "big game" climax being played out in a not-too-high-stakes karaoke competition. The movie has some good performances and good music, but the characterizations are thin and loaded with genre clichés.

Singer-actor Huey Lewis (of pop group Huey Lewis and the News fame, and the movie "Short Cuts") plays a self-centered karaoke hustler who is forced to accompany his estranged daughter Liv (Gwyneth Paltrow of "Bounce") on one of the aforementioned road trips. Another road trip features the dynamic duo of gangsta crooner Reggie Kane (Andre Braugher of "City of Angels") and flipped-out salesman-turned-outlaw singer Todd Woods (Paul Giamatti of "Big Momma's House"). Yet another road trip duo are renegade taxi driver Billy (Scott Speedman) and seedy karaoke hustler Suzi Loomis (Maria Bello of "Coyote Ugly"). The road trips end at the aforementioned big game sing-off at the O.K. Corral.

The plot is somewhat engaging, even though it isn't believable. None of these couples who are thrown together on these extended cross-country driving trips seem to like each other, so it isn't believable that they would stay together. It is sort of the same story, with the same problems as "American Beauty." "Duets," like "American Beauty" takes superficial pot shots at the hollowness of the American dream, and the dreary sameness of commercial America. The diference is, that in "American Beauty" Lester Burnham stayed home for some reason, while the characters of "Duet" are on the run.

Woods, the salesman who quits his job because of some sort of ecological awakening, becomes crazed from the influence of drugs and a lack of sleep. He goes way off the deep end, gets his hands on a gun and becomes an outlaw. This often happens in Hollywood movies, but that doesn't make it seem believable. Loomis is also a sociopath in her own way as she hustles her way across the country, trading sexual favors to further her so-called career. Most of these characters are pretty far out on the fringe and some are interesting enough to keep your attention on the movie between songs.

Huey Lewis, of course, sings his own songs in the film, and he is also a decent actor. Gwyneth Paltrow does her usual fine acting job and shows off a nice singing voice as well. It ought to be illegal to have that much talent. Solid acting performances are also delivered by the lip-synching duo of Paul Giamatti and Andre Braugher. Several real karaoke stars, including "Karaoke Karl" Detken, also appear in the film as contestants. Angie Dickinson has a small part in the movie, which is directed by Gwyneth Paltrow's father, Bruce Paltrow. The soundtrack is full of great music and songs. It is written by John Byrum ("The Razor's Edge"). Cinematographer Paul Sarossy ("Felicia's Journey," "Affliction" and "The Sweet Hereafter," does a nice job with the bright desert southwestern exteriors as well as the darker interior shots. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)