DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
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HIT AND RUNWAY (director/writer/editor/producer: Christopher Livingston; screenwriter: Jaffe Cohen; cinematographer: David Tumblety; editor: Rhonda L. Mitrani; music: Frank Piazza; cast: Michael Parducci (Alex Andero), Peter Jacobson (Elliot Springer), Judy Prescott (Gwen Colton), Kerr Smith (Joey Worcieukowski), Hoyt Richards (Jagger Stevens), John Fiore (Frank Anderro), J. K. Simmons (Ray),Teresa DePriest (Lana), Jonathan Hogan (Bob), Stephen Singer (Rabbi Pinchas), Bill Cohen (Norman Rizzoli), Rosemary De Angelis (Marie Andero); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Andrew Charas/Chris D'Annibale; Lot 47 Films; 2001)

 
"The indie comedy/drama Hit and Runway is mostly a drag."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The indie comedy/drama "Hit and Runway" is mostly a drag. Most of it doesn't work and seems to be a rip-off of the 1970s comedies and at times kvells in wanting to be a Woody Allen flick, but there are a few sparkling moments where it's funny and when it's perceptive without hitting you over the head with how smart it thinks it is. The film's intentions are fine when it explores the meaning of friendship, family loyalty, self-discovery and artistic integrity. But it falters when its melodramatics trivialize a typical sitcom situation even further. It desperately tries to sell its familiar tale about the shotgun mismatched business collaboration between a self-effacing, brainy, Jewish gay playwright with an inferiority complex due to his nerdy looks and a macho straight Italian Catholic who aspires to be a Hollywood movie screenwriter but lacks talent. 

"Hit" marks the directing debut of writer, composer, and musician Christopher Livingston. The film is a loosely autobiographical screen adaptation that reflects on Livingston's relationship with his own screen-writing partner gay stand-up comic and comedy writer Jaffe Cohen. "Hit and Runway" was awarded Best Screenplay at the 1999 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

The film opens with the not confident Alex Andero (Michael Parducci) attending his old man's funeral, as he sobs and remembers with affection the tough love his restaurant owning dad showed him. Older brother Frank (Fiore) who is now in charge of the money-strapped Greenwich Village coffee house and who is in the habit of calling him stupid, just like his dad called him, tells him the party is over and that at the very least he's going to have to return to work in the cafe part-time as a waiter/dishwasher to help out the family. Though Frank wants him there full-time in order to teach him the business and make him a full-partner. Alex has been attending a college course on screenwriting and dreams up a tacky action script about a male model played by action superstar Jagger Stevens (Hoyt Richards) as an undercover cop who thwarts a gang of cocaine smugglers resulting in some supermodels being killed in the ensuing shootout between the cop and the gangsters on the runway. The dialogue is Ed Wood bad, as in the gratuitously violent scene where Jagger says "Freeze, you scuzzbucket piece of Eurotrash" just as he's about to plug the gangster. When awake Alex decides to name the movie "Hit and Runway" and reads it out loud to his class and to his unimpressed teacher Bob (Hogan), who makes some discouraging remarks.

Help arrives through family connections with his uncle, Norman Rizzoli, a veteran Hollywood insider whom Alex pleads with to read his screenplays and use his contacts. Alex is finally told that if he can get him a script in a few days showing that he can not only write action but write funny then he can arrange for a big Hollywood deal starring Jagger Stevens. As Jagger is the one Alex fantasizes about as being his action hero, this is doubly pleasing. When the gay nebbish lookalike for Woody Allen, Elliott Springer (Peter Jacobson), shows up at the cafe and offers handsome gay waiter Joey Worcieukowski (Kerr Smith) a part in his new play and leaves him his script, Alex after reading the script recruits Elliott to co-write the mainstream Hollywood action/comedy movie with the promise he'll give him half credit and help him get a date with the delicious Joey.

At the class Alex tries to flirt with the sexy, aspiring actress Lana (Teresa De Priest), but he receives a friendlier reception from his other classmate, the shy bespectacled Gwen (Judy Prescott); but, Alex pays little attention to her and can't see how beautiful she is despite her glasses. Oh my, I couldn't believe how clichéd this script was going with that romantic interest situation. As expected, Alex will later on be shocked at how gorgeous she is when she removes her glasses. It was particularly annoying because this indie was railing against Hollywood scripts with just such empty plot devices and given its chance to do something superior, the best it can do is come up with a script that is just as bankrupt. Parody or no parody, that bit and others like it failed to amuse or reveal much.

The film was not ready for prime time. When Alex and Elliot do get their "Hit and Runway" script to Jagger and his vulgar producer (J. K. Simmons), the producer after he says he loves it--then does his Hollywood thing and insists on a total rewrite. Most of the film felt lifeless, and by the time it concludes and shows it understood what it was mocking it still only ends up saying what is obvious.

REVIEWED ON 3/21/2003     GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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