It Could Happen to You


Most critics who have reviewed the PG-rated, absolutely inoffensive It Could Happen to You — which, by the way, is rated PG in part because of quote-unquote “cop action” — compare it to a Frank Capra film. You know, It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Wholesome family films about a good guy just trying to make it by being decent in the gosh-darn city.

And maybe that’s valid. I’ve only seen Mr. Smith once, eight years ago, and I’ve never seen any other Capra films. I mean, this is a pretty simple story. So simple, in fact, that I wondered at first how they were going to manage to stretch it out into a feature-length film. Good cop Charlie (Cage) goes to a restaurant one day and buys some coffee from the recently-bankrupt waitress there, but doesn’t have enough money left for a tip, gee willikers. Pardon my French. In order to atone for this grievous mistake, he offers to give her half of the winnings from the lottery ticket he just bought or double the tip he normally would have given her (which, I think, would have come out to about 70 cents on one cup of coffee). As it turns out, Charlie’s lottery ticket happens to be one of several that is the big winner: he gets $4 million dollars and, well, gulp, I guess that means that $2 million is going to Yvonne the waitress.

Remember when I said that Charlie is a good cop? You probably didn’t understand what I meant. I mean, he’s a good cop. Like a saint, even. He is nice to everybody no matter how mean they are to him, and when he wins the money he decides that the only right thing to do is follow through on his promise. Because — after all, children — a promise is a promise. Just as an aside, that old cliche “a promise is a promise” is some mighty circular logic. Anyway.

Unfortunately, the idea of giving away $2 million dollars to a complete stranger does not go down well with Charlie’s wife (Rosie Perez). She is everything that Charlie is not; i.e. she is obsessed with money, fashion, and popularity. Yvonne is almost the exact same as Charlie; she is sweet, kind, and generous. Hmm. I’ll give you one guess where this is going.

And I guess maybe the filmmakers didn’t care? Maybe they thought that the sweet sentimentality of the film would help propel it into classic status, just because it’s so darn-tootin’ cute and whimsical and warm ‘n fuzzy. It’s like Blank Check for adults… for children. What if a grown-up got a whole buncha money, they wouldn’t spend it on toys and ice cream, would they? No, they’d spend it to let all the kids in the neighborhood play baseball at a major league baseball stadium! Yeah!
I know that $2 million was a lot more way back in 1994 when this movie came out, but they spend money as though they’ve got no budgeting concerns at all. They re-model the apartment, buy expensive clothes, pay the subway fare for the entire city of New York, so on and so on and so on and so on.

But all of this is just stalling, because I don’t have a lot to say about It Could Happen to You.
In a word, it’s boring. The premise is boring, the execution is boring. The actors were boring. The occasional jokes were obvious and boring. It’s the worst kind of movie: bland, sure to inspire neither affection nor hatred. It exists in a vacuum. It’s the movie you watched in the hour you lost during Daylight Savings Time. I have been storing up so much indifference to use in response to this movie, and I still don’t have enough.

It’s not/that bad.

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