Lifetime Film Review: V.C. Andrews’ Pearl in the Mist (dir by David Bercovici-Artieda)


Since I kind of enjoyed watching Ruby earlier today, I decided to watch the second film in Lifetime’s Landry family saga, V.C. Andrews’ Pearl In the Mist.

Pearl in the Mist picks up where the first film ended.  The year is 1962 and aspiring artist Ruby (Raechelle Banno) is living in New Orleans and still thinking about the life that she left behind in the Bayou.  Her father (Gil Bellows) is still married to her bitchy stepmother (Lauralee Bell).  Ruby’s twin sister, Giselle (Karina Banno), is still using a wheelchair as a result of a car accident and she’s still angry that Ruby stole away Giselle’s boyfriend, Beau (Ty Wood).  Ruby’s half-brother, Paul (Sam Duke), is still living in the Bayou and is still in love with Ruby, despite the fact that any physical relationship between them would be incestuous.

However, it’s time for Ruby and Giselle to get out of New Orleans.  They’ve been enrolled in a prestigious boarding school.  Giselle is not happy about having to leave home.  Ruby is excited because, goddammit, Ruby’s excited about everything.  At the boarding school, Ruby deals with all sorts of drama.  She befriends a girl who is passing as white.  She inspires a blind pianist.  She flirts with a hunky groundskeeper.  She continues to paint under the tutelage of Miss Stevens (Meaghan Hewitt McDonald).  She does all of this despite the fact that the school’s headmistress (Marilu Henner) hates her because Ruby is from the Bayou and no one trusts “swamp people.”  As the same time, Ruby has to deal with her wicked stepmother and her bitter sister.

I have to admit that, at first, I didn’t think I was going to like Pearl in the Mist, if just because Ruby herself was so perfect that she was kind of annoying.  She never had a bad thought.  She never said a bad word.  She was also so extremely naïve and so endlessly enthusiastic that I could understand why Giselle was so sick of having to deal with her.  Ruby’s innocence made sense in the first film, because Ruby was still adjusting to life in the city.  But, by the time Pearl in the Mist rolls around, there’s really no excuse for Ruby to be so clueless about …. well, everything.

Fortunately, about halfway through, the film started to get interesting.  Bizarre incidents started to pile up.  Characters started to snap at each other in dialogue that was so overwritten and pulpy that it was kind of impossible not to love the sound of it.  The film embraced the melodrama, as I like to say.  It all eventually led to a plot twist involving Giselle that was so insane and so out there that it redeemed the entire film.  Karina Banno appeared to be having a lot of fun being bad as Giselle and it was fun to watch her.  If you’re going to be in a film like this, you always want to play the bad girl.  They always get the best lines.

In the end, Pearl in the Mist was so over-the-top and cheerfully silly that I couldn’t help but enjoy it.  All trips to the Bayou should be as fun.

Cannonball Run II (1984, directed by Hal Needham)


In 1981, director Hal Needham and star Burt Reynolds had a surprise hit with The Cannonball Run.  Critics hated the film about a race from one end of America to the other but audiences flocked to watch Burt and a group of familiar faces ham it up while cars crashed all around them.  The original Cannonball Run is a goofy and gloriously stupid movie and it can still be fun to watch.  The sequel, on the other hand…

When the sequel begins, the Cannonball Run has been discontinued.  The film never explains why the race is no longer being run but then again, there’s a lot that the sequel doesn’t explain.  King Abdul ben Falafel (Ricardo Montalban, following up The Wrath of Khan with this) wants his son, The Sheik (Jamie Farr, returning from the first film) to win the Cannonball so he puts up a million dollars and announces that the race is back on.  Problem solved.

With the notable exceptions of Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore, and Adrienne Barbeau, almost everyone from the first film returns to take another shot at the race.  Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise are back.  Jack Elam returns as the crazy doctor, though he’s riding with the Sheik this time.  Jackie Chan returns, riding with Richard “Jaws” Kiel.  Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. return, playing barely disguised versions of themselves.  They’re joined by the surviving members of the Rat Pack.  Yes, Frank Sinatra is in this thing.  He plays himself and, from the way his scenes are shot, it’s obvious they were all filmed in a day and all the shots of people reacting to his presence were shot on another day.  Shirley MacClaine also shows up, fresh from having won an Oscar.  She plays a fake nun who rides with Burt and Dom.  Burt, of course, had a previous chance to co-star with Shirley but he turned down Terms of Endearment so he could star in Stroker AceCannonball Run II finally gave the two a chance to act opposite each other, though no one would be winning any Oscars for appearing in this film.

Say what you will about Hal Needham as a director, he was obviously someone who cultivated a lot of friendships in Hollywood because this film is jam-packed with people who I guess didn’t have anything better to do that weekend.  Telly Savalas, Michael V. Gazzo, Henry Silva, Abe Vigoda, and Henry Silva all play gangsters.  Jim Nabors plays Homer Lyle, a country-fried soldier who is still only a private despite being in his 50s.  Catherine Bach and Susan Anton replace Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman as the two racers who break traffic laws and hearts with impunity.  Tim Conway, Don Knotts, Foster Brooks, Sid Caesar, Arte Johnson, Mel Tillis, Doug McClure, George “Goober” Lindsey, and more; Needham found room for all of them in this movie.  He even found roles for Tony Danza and an orangutan.  (Marilu Henner is also in the movie so I guess Needham was watching both Taxi and Every Which Way But Loose while casting the film.)  Needham also came up with a role for Charles Nelson Reilly, who is cast as a mafia don in Cannonball Run II.  His name is also Don so everyone refers to him as being “Don Don.”  That’s just a typical example of the humor that runs throughout Cannonball Run II.  If you thought the humor of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World was too subtle and cerebral, Cannonball Run II might be right up your alley.

The main problem with Cannonball Run II is that there’s not much time spent on the race, which is strange because that’s the main reason why anyone would want to watch this movie.  The race itself doesn’t start until 45 minutes into this 108 minute film and all the racers are quickly distracted by a subplot about the Mafia trying to kidnap the Sheik.  Everyone stops racing so that Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. can disguise themselves as belly dancers to help rescue the Sheik.  By the time that’s all been taken care of, there’s only 10 minutes left for everyone to race across the country.  After a montage of driving scenes and a cartoon of an arrow stretching across the nation (the cartoon was animated by Ralph Bakshi!), we discover who won the Cannonball and then it’s time for a montage of Burt and Dom blowing their lines and giggling.  Needham always ended his films with a montage of everyone screwing up a take and it’s probably one of his most lasting cinematic contributions.  Every blooper reel that’s ever been included as a DVD or Blu-ray extra owes a debt of gratitude to Hal Needham.  Watching people blow their lines can be fun if you’ve just watched a fun movie but watching Burt and Dom amuse themselves after sitting through Cannonball Run II is just adding insult to injury.  It feels less like they’re laughing at themselves and more like they’re laughing at you for being stupid enough to sit through a movie featuring Tony Danza and an orangutan.

The dumb charm of the first Cannonball Run is nowhere to be found in this sequel and, though the film made a profit, the box office numbers were still considered to be a disappointment when compared to the other films that Reynolds and Needham collaborated on.  Along with Stroker Ace, this is considered to be one of the films that ended Reynolds’s reign as a top box office attraction.  Cannonball Run II was also the final feature film to feature Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.  This could be considered the final Rat Pack film, though I wouldn’t say that too loudly.

Cannonball Run II is a disappointment on so many levels.  It’s hard to believe that the same director who did Smokey and the Bandit and Hooper could be responsible for the anemic stunts and chases found in this movie.  The cast may have had a good time but the audience is left bored.  Stick with the first Cannonball Run.

 

Hallmark Review: June in January (2014, dir. Mark Griffiths)


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I doubt that people who read my Late Night Cable reviews are the same people who read my Hallmark reviews, but there’s a connection here. There’s an actor named Frankie Cullen who is in a bunch of the movies that wind up on late night cable. The thing is he’s too good for those movies. He really isn’t a bad actor at all and usually raises the quality of the movie by being in them. June in January is the second Hallmark movie i’ve seen with actor Wes Brown and he also raises the quality of the movie just by being in it. I also saw him in Love Under The Stars where he always conveyed a deep sadness and concern for his daughter simply without saying a word. In fact, his words were usually upbeat, but he always made sure we knew what was going on underneath without spelling it out for us. He does that kind of thing in this movie too. Just like Frankie Cullen, Wes Brown is too good for these movies in my opinion.

This is also the second film i’ve seen with actress Brooke D’Orsay and she is pretty good here too just like she was in How To Fall In Love. She is possibly one of the few actors i’ve seen on Hallmark that can play against type. She naturally fits the irresponsible ditz, but is good enough to convincingly play other characters despite what her appearance tells us she should be. How To Fall In Love was also directed by Mark Griffiths.

With that out of the way, we start off the movie with D’Orsay and Brown getting ready to go somewhere seeing as they are dressing up. They are doing it in two different places. And as usual the woman in the movie tries on several dresses and always goes with a dress I don’t like.

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Oh, and that’s her mom who was frozen in the picture by evil witches and can only be released when her daughter has the perfect wedding. Just kidding, it’s her dead mom who will be a guiding spirit for D’Orsay through voiceover and flashbacks. Now D’Orsay and Brown go to a party and D’Orsay feels out of place because these are upper-crust people and she’s just a lowly nurse practitioner. Those non practitioner nurses are even worse. They just always sat around doing nothing on ER all the time. Someone actually left a review on IMDb complaining how this film bashes nurse practitioners and more specifically regular nurses even though the villains of the movie say it, but she stands up for herself and we see her helping people in her job.

This is when a Hallmark banner popped up to tell me they have a cannibalism related Valentine’s Day movie coming in February.

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Should be more interesting than The Cabin (2011) which I did watch, but since it didn’t have the Hallmark seal on it before the title card, among other things, I don’t think it is a real Hallmark movie and won’t be reviewing it. Also, it was pretty lousy and felt edited.

Anyways, we now meet Brown’s parents.

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That’s Marilu Henner who will be our Jaclyn Smith from Bridal Wave for this film. D’Orsay is always nervous around her because she feels like she’s always “auditioning for her.”

Meanwhile, this guy is eating a pizza in a bedroom.

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Back at the party, we meet the bitch played by Chelsea Hobbs.

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She just by coincidence also played the bitch in The Nine Lives Of Christmas. Yes, that is the best word to use. Even my Mom who has become rather conservative about cursing as of late started referring to her as such near the end of the film.

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The Nine Lives Of Christmas (2014, dir. Mark Jean)

Also by coincidence, this movie was shot in Fort Langley, British Columbia, Canada just like The Nine Lives Of Christmas. I know that because of this shot.

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What’s hilarious is that if you go to Google Maps Street View right now that building has a big Canadian flag hanging from it.

Anyways, after D’Orsay squats…

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she pulls out a book complete with her dream wedding flowers in it and a flashback to her talking with her mother. Then D’Orsay comes out to show her father herself wearing her mother’s wedding dress. This is probably as good a time as any to tell you that the father’s are both really decent guys in this movie.

Then we cut to D’Orsay at work to see just how damn incompetent nurse practitioners are when she is able to help a man who turns out to have Seasonal Affective Disorder without having to consult a doctor. Totally useless I tell you.

After a few things that are just there to remind us of the importance of their wedding, Brown drops a bomb on D’Orsay. He tells her that he’s actually named Luke McDonald and is a member of an anti-vampire church.

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Actually he’s there to tell her that since her character’s name is June and the film is called June in January, they are going to have to move to Cleveland for a new job he just received and have the wedding now in January. Why they couldn’t move to Cleveland and still have the wedding in June, I have no idea. Luckily, this is not a Hallmark movie that sends the message that her having her dream wedding is more important than marrying someone she loves. That’s extremely refreshing.

Meanwhile, the bitch has been assigned by Marilu Henner to do something about the upcoming wedding. Got to admit, I really thought she was Brown’s sister until late in the movie where she states she is just a friend of the family and works for Henner at her “design” business. Then Brown and D’Orsay check out some of the worst places possible to hold a reception…

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before settling on having the ceremony at Marilu Henner’s place. I say both reception and ceremony in there because while we do see the ceremony at the house in the end, but the places they visit look like where you would hold a reception so I’m not really sure.

Now it’s time to go back to find out that D’Orsay somehow, i’m sure by complete luck, cured the poor guy who was suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Believe it or not, that is one of those things that is terrible to have, but is surprisingly easy to fix. Simply having a special light bulb shine on you for a certain amount of time each day stops it. Rather remarkable. He will actually repay her by saving the day at the end of the film.

Oh, and it’s discovering I have taken screenshots like this that make writing these reviews for you worth it.

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No idea what was going on here.

At this point, the film kind of goes on autopilot. You have D’Orsay starting to panic, but quickly realizing that it’s marrying someone she loves that makes the wedding special. Her mother even left a note after her death for D’Orsay to make sure she remembers that. The fathers do there part to comfort D’Orsay and bring Henner down to Earth. Oh, and this happens.

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During this scene the bitch tries one last attempt to ruin the marriage by telling Brown that she has a crush on him. Look at Brown’s face. Without saying a word he could have simply gotten up and left and we would have completely understood his feelings on what she was saying. Surprise followed by disgust followed by sheer amazement that she would actually stoop this low. I’m surprised they actually had him say anything. Brown is good enough with his acting to convey everything with his face and body language. And a prenup gets thrown in at the last minute, but that goes nowhere just like any of the normal Hallmark speed bumps which just lead the characters to a better understanding of their love for each other rather than stupid panic.

But the bitch has one last trick up her sleeve after being fired by Henner. She tells the revered that the wedding is off so he won’t show up for the ceremony. However…

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that guy who D’Orsay cured by pure chance has a friend who can marry them and they live happily ever after.

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My summary thoughts on the movie are as these: It’s one of the best Hallmark movies i’ve watched especially considering it’s just about a rushed wedding, Wes Brown is a good actor, D’Orsay is no slouch herself, nurse practitioners and regular nurses deserve a lot of respect, and I carried that one joke on way too long.

Note: I’m aware that the IMDb reviewer’s main point was that the film can appear like it’s saying you have to be a nurse practitioner instead of a regular nurse in order to be taken seriously. I get the same impression from people when I tell them i’m transgender, but not on hormones so I can understand why it bothered her. My jokes still stand though because my point is that it’s ridiculous to look down on nurses as if they aren’t to be taken seriously and the film never really does that.

Hallmark Review: Hitched For The Holidays (2012, dir. Michael Scott)


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Wait, this was written by Gary Goldstein? Well Gary, if there was ever one of your Hallmark movies where the characters should be singing When The Saints Go Marching In, then this is it! If nothing else, at least Joey Lawrence can sing. But I guess just rehashing My Fake Fiancee (2009) with a holiday twist is fine. At least this is back when Joey had some of his hair again.

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So there’s Joey Lawrence playing Rob. Rob is a bit of downer. His grandmother is in the hospital harassing him to get married since this is a Hallmark movie. He claims to be dating a woman named Rosemary.

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That’s Emily Hampshire playing Julie who doesn’t look happy because her mom, played by Marilu Henner, is harassing her to get to dating. But that alone doesn’t put that look on your face or cock your neck to the side. So let’s have her mom trying to make her date a guy with a foot fetish. This guy.

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Oh, and even at the end of this movie when this guy shows up again the movie switches from the kind of music you’d expect to foot fetish music as he stares at her feet. It’s pretty funny. Wait…foot fetish and this was written by Gary Goldstein. I wonder if Gary has a thing for feet? The leading lady put “nice feet” on her list of things that must be in the man she marries in The Wish List, which he also wrote.

Well, you’d think after Hampshire survived My Awkward Sexual Adventure (2012) that she’d be able to handle Mr. Foot Fetish, but she’s pretty non-confrontational. So how do these two meet? Well, through Rickyslist.org of course!

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They are each looking for someone to be a temporary stand-in lover for the holiday season. Seeing as this is a Hallmark movie, she can’t go with the more interesting and humorous option this screen affords. I wonder what “misc romance” means.

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Still, this movie probably would have been more interesting had she accepted that message from SatanSpawn.

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They hook up and go to a party together as a couple. Unfortunately, Rob tries to do the dance number from The Wish List, but seeing as there isn’t another dude there and his character is drunk, it doesn’t work out. Of course they end up making amends, but there’s another issue. She’s Jewish and he’s Catholic. They even throw Kwanzaa into the mix. Actually it’s snuck into the movie in a rather humorous way. At least it’s funnier than this scene.

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Julie of course tells her parents that Rob is Jewish too. So that means they need to light the Menorah. She leads him through this whole elaborate ceremony only to have him blow the candles out immediately after he finishes lighting them. Yeah, I believe Rob is that ignorant and stupid about as much as I believe Anastasia Steele didn’t know what butt plugs were in Fifty Shades Of Grey. At least the worst that happens to her is she breaks an old family ornament of Rob’s after trying to hang it on his family’s Christmas Tree, which later becomes a Hanukkah Tree.

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That’s this movie in a nutshell. It’s a series of religious misunderstandings that ultimately ends up with Rob and Julie finding out that their families care about them being happy before anything else. Even when Rob says he’s going to convert to Judaism he’s surprised when his family is happy about it because they know he obviously cares for Julie and that’s what matters to them.

Of course there’s a minor hiccup at the end. But it all works out because Rob ends up with a horse. I guess that’s what “misc romance” means.

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Actually, he does wind up on a horse in order to reach Julie through bumper to bumper traffic on New Year’s Eve. All I can think while writing this is that Crocodile Dundee (1986) did it better.

If the clip is gone and you don’t know what I’m referring to, then go watch Crocodile Dundee now.

In the end some title cards tell us what happened after they found each other. It includes that they were married by both a priest and a rabbi. There’s a joke in there, but I’m still busy trying to figure out the rest of that joke email about the brunette and the redhead trying to break out of jail from Midnight Masquerade.

This one’s okay if you can push past some of the ignorance it expects you to buy here and there about the characters and religion.

Hallmark Review: Accidentally in Love (2011, dir. David Burton Morris)


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Another really simple one. I always feel bad reviewing one of these cause I feel like I’m cheating somebody. Also, this isn’t one I could watch where I could take screenshots. Oh, well. It is what it is.

The movie begins and we are introduced to Eddie Avedon (Ethan Erickson) who plays Mulligan the bunny on a children’s TV show. As soon as the camera shuts off, he shoves the kid costar on the show out of the way. He then proceeds to bitch and moan about the costume before he finally gets it off. Of course he hops in his car and soon ends up behind Annie Benchley (Jennie Garth). Benchley’s old run down car breaks down so Avedon keeps honking at her till he makes an attempt to go around her car. And by attempt, I mean he runs into her car. Setup!

We already know that obviously Avedon would rather be doing something else careerwise so we need to be introduced to Benchley. Benchley has a daughter who is losing her eyesight. She loves the character of Mulligan the bunny. So of course the two are going to end up together. The daughter kind of melts his heart. There are no surprises here or anything particularly interesting to mention.

The problem with this film is that I didn’t really think two leads had any chemistry together. Also, Jennie Garth doesn’t fit in the role of a single mother who is down on her luck working as a waitress with a kid going blind. Call it the fault of starring on Beverly Hills, 90210 for too long, but I just couldn’t look at her face and accept her in the role. I accepted him, but I also never really warmed up to him.

Still, it was okay. There were decent supporting performances from Avedon’s friend (Zack Ward), Benchley’s mother (Marilu Henner), Avedon’s agent (Fred Willard), and I even kind of liked the kid costar (Adam Karelin). This one will pass some time for you.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #74: Perfect (dir by James Bridges)


PerfectOkay,before reviewing the 1985 film Perfect, I have three things to say.

Number one, I nearly captioned the picture above “John Travolta, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Little Xenu.”  And then I laughed and laughed.  But, in the end, I resisted temptation because I’m an adult now.

Number two, Perfect came out in June in 1985, a few months before I was born.  As a result, I have no idea what the 1985 reviews looked like.  However, it still seems to me that you’re taking a big risk when you give a movie a title like Perfect, especially when the movie itself is far from perfect.  How many reviews opened with, “Perfect fails to live up to its name…”

And finally, as a result of seeing both this film and Staying Alive, I have to say, “What the Hell, John Travolta?”  Seriously, what the Hell was going on?  John Travolta gave a great performance in the 1970s, with Saturday Night Fever.  And then in the 1990s, he was good in Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty, Face/Off, Primary Colors, and a few others.  (For our purposes here, we shall pretend that Battlefield Earth never happened.)  Even though most of Travolta’s recent films have been forgettable, his performances have generally been adequate.

So, seriously, John — what was going on in the 80s?  Because judging from both Perfect and Staying Alive, John Travolta apparently totally forgot how to act during that decade.  When I reviewed Staying Alive, I said that Travolta’s performance managed to create a whole new definition of bad.  But he’s actually even worse in Perfect.  It helped, of course, that in Staying Alive, Travolta’s character was supposed to be stupid.  In Perfect, on the other hand, he’s actually supposed to be a brilliant reporter.

Or, at the very least, he’s supposed to be brilliant by the standards of Rolling Stone.  Travolta plays Adam Lawrence, an award-winning reporter for Rolling Stone.  The magazine, by the way, plays itself and so does its publisher, Jann Wenner (though his character is technically named Mark Roth).  What’s interesting is that the film itself doesn’t necessarily paint a flattering picture of Rolling Stone or Jann Wenner, though admittedly a lot of that is due to the fact that Wenner himself gives a performance that is even worse than Travolta’s.  It’s impossible to watch Perfect without thinking about the fact that Adam is writing for the same magazine that would eventually put Dzokhar Tsarnaev on the cover and publish the UVA rape story.

Anyway, if I seem to avoiding talking about the exact plot of Perfect, that’s because there’s not really much of a plot to describe.  Adam, a hard-hitting investigative journalist, is doing research on a story about how people are hooking up at gyms.  Wenner agrees.  “We haven’t done L.A. in a while!” he says.  Adams joins the a gym called the Sports Connection, which he is soon calling “The Sports Erection” because he’s a super clever reporter.  He falls in love with an aerobics instructor, who is played by Jamie Lee Curtis.  She doesn’t trust reporters but is eventually won over by Travolta’s … well, who knows?  Mostly she’s won over because the plot needs some conflict.  She gets on Adam’s computer and she types, “Want to fuck?”  Adam says sure but then tries too hard to dig into the dark secret from her past.  “You’re a sphincter muscle!” she shouts as him.  Adam writes a compassionate and balanced article about the Sports Connection.  Wenner edits the article and turn it into a sordid hit piece.  (And again, you wonder why Wenner agreed to play himself.)  Feelings are hurt, issues are resolved, and eventually everyone takes an aerobics class.

Honestly, the entire movie is mostly just a collection of scenes of Jamie Lee Curtis and John Travolta working out.  And, in all fairness, Curtis does about as well as anyone could in this terrible film.  Travolta, on the other had … well, just check out the scene below and maybe you’ll understand why I had a hard time concentrating on Travolta’s acting.

Perfect fails to live up to its name.