April 10, 2000 -- Bonnie Hunt has specialized for years in playing the smart friend, sister and confident of bigger stars in movies like "Jerry McGuire." It turns out she really is that smart. She has written and directed a very nice little romantic comedy, on her first try yet!
"Return to Me" is such a sweet little comedy it could have been rated G, except for some swearing by Jim Belushi (its rated PG instead). There's no sex, no violence, just romance and comedy, and fine entertainment. The story is a kind of bittersweet fairy tale about a woman who is killed in an auto accident. Her heart is donated to a young woman, Grace Briggs (played by Minnie Driver of "Good Will Hunting"). The grieving widower, Bob Rueland, (David Duchovny of "The X-Files") and Grace meet a year after the accident and fall in love. Is it a coincidence, or is it fate?
Grace is surrounded by a close-knit circle of family and friends that Rueland easily becomes a part of. These include Grace's grandfather, Marty O'Reilly, (Carroll O'Connor of the "In the Heat of the Night" TV series), her uncle Angelo Parpadillo, (Robert Loggia of "Independence Day") and their friends Emmet (Eddie Jones), Wally (William Bronder) and Sophie (Marianne Muellerleile). Grace's best friend, Megan Dayton (played by writer-director Bonnie Hunt of "The Green Mile") and Megan's husband, Joe Dayton is played by the colorful James Belushi.
Grace lives above O'Reilly's Irish-Italian restaurant in Chicago, operated by her grandfather and uncle. She is surrounded by what amounts to a large extended family. They all look out for her and are constantly trying to play matchmaker. Rueland has no such extended family, but his best friend, Charlie (David Alan Grier of "McHale's Navy") also tries to play matchmaker, setting him up with an awful date, (played by Holly Wortell) at O'Reilly's where he meets Grace.
Of course the romance doesn't go entirely smoothly, or there wouldn't be a story. The couple does have to overcome some obstacles, but there is always that extended family to provide a comic spark. Duchovny and Driver make a convincing romantic pair and the older actors, especially O'Connor do a fine job. O'Connor delivers a speech to Duchovny at one point that has the whole audience tearing up. Hunt does a fine job directing the film, proving she's no dumb blonde. This is the kind of movie to watch on a cold winter's night, because it will warm you up. It rates a B.
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