If the failed-at-love tales of juveniles in adult bodies ring the funny bone, meet "High Fidelity," playing now at area theaters.
It's the latest non-animated cartoon starring John Cusack, this time as an inner city record store owner who's managed to extend his childhood into his mid-30s.
A sillier-than-usual comedy, "High Fidelity" tells the coming-of-age story of Rob (Cusack), a late bloomer who still prefers his punk music in vinyl rather than digital (or even taped) form.
Rob makes a bare-bones living in Chicago by selling used (and sometimes rare) record albums, mostly to those nurtured in their teen-age years by the cream of the punk rock movement.
Directed by Stephen "Dangerous Liaisons" Frears, the movie opens as Rob is breaking up with live-in girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle), his latest in a long line of romantic failures.
She's sick of his outlook on life (and undoubtedly the massive collection of long-playing albums that covers the walls of his small apartment). Besides, she's found someone better in upstairs neighbor Ian, a new waver played without serious intent by Tim Robbins.
As a form of therapy, Rob turns his attention to his "top-five" list of lost girlfriends, starting with the object of his first kiss during his schoolyard days, and continuing with others through the years.
As the chapters unfold -- each introduced by a face-the-audience narrative from the main character -- Rob begins to sense the tug of personal responsibility for his lost loves, a realization that leads him back in Laura's direction. Ho hum!
Much of the action occurs in Rob's store, "Champion Vinyl," where his helpers Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (Jack Black) hold sway with encyclopedic knowledge of punk musicology.
Fortunately for the audience, Dick and Barry are passing through their own maturation processes, which provide some comedic relief to an otherwise dreary script.
Meek-as-a-mouse Dick is exploring his first-ever romantic opportunity, and loud-mouthed, the-punk-you-love-to-hate Barry is boasting his way into a singing career.
Based on the novel by Nick Hornby, "High Fidelity" serves up a parody on the life and times of children of the '80s, suggesting that it's time to grow up and get serious, punk (and vinyl) is dead.
That may be a theme worth addressing, but "High Fidelity" sends the audience on the tugboat cruise of a humorless script.
Cusack, who co-wrote and co-produced the film, turns in a credible performance, more in keeping with his earliest roles in "The Grifters" and "The Sure Thing," as opposed to his more recent contributions in "Grosse Pointe Blank" and "Pushing Tin."
But who cares? As Rob, the grownup with a juvenile mentality, he wears out his welcome in a hurry.
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