Despite all the technological progress or democratic changes, most of today's world lives in poverty and the only way for the individual to escape this condition is usually at the expense of his or her fellow man. At least, this is the individualistic worldview heavily promoted in post-Cold War era when the unrestricted laissez faire capitalism became the only viable ideology. Hollywood, which often indirectly promoted and directly employed this worldview, every now and then launches Capra-like fairy tales that preach the opposite - unselfishness, charity and giving aid to those less fortunate. One of such films is It Could Happen to You, 1994 romantic comedy directed by Andrew Bergman.
The plot of the film is set in New York and deals with Charlie Lang (played by Nicolas Cage), hard-working and honest policeman. One day he finds himself unable to give usual tip to the young waitress Yvonne Biasi (played by Bridget Fonda) and instead promises to tip her with half of the winnings from the lottery ticket he has just bought. When Charlie's ticket number gets drawn up, he wins 4 million US$. Nevertheless he feels bound by his promise and decides to tip waitress with half of his winning. His honourable gesture would help impoverished Yvonne, but Charlie's loud, obnoxious and greedy wife Muriel (played by Rosie Perez) doesn't share her husband's views and wants money for herself instead for charity. As rift between spouses widens, Charlie and Yvonne soon discover that they are made for each other.
Screenwriter Jane Anderson seems to like bizarre stories about ordinary people, at least judging by her work on The Positively True Adventures of Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, one of the best films based on real life stories. In the case of It Could Happen to You the story was pure fiction and the magic was gone. Instead we got the story that went overboard in a desperate attempt to flood the viewers with good feelings. The result is film that looks less like a fairy tale and more like a Hollywood high concept" product. Rosie Perez has put a lot of effort in making her obnoxious character memorable, and Bridget Fonda made her character charming, but that was all in vain. The plot was predictable, black-and-white characterisation was annoying, dialogue was weak and, finally, direction by Andrew Bergman turned this potentially interesting comedy into something overlong, dull and forgettable. Hollywood can make films that make this world a better place and inspire real life to do the same, but this didn't happen to It Could Happen to You.
RATING: 4/10 (+)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.movies.reviews on August 20th 2002)
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Movie URL: https://www.themoviedb.org/movie/10660-it-could-happen-to-you?language=en-US