Whole Nine Yards won't let you down

Tuesday, July 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The comedy The Whole Nine Yards (Warner, no suggested price cassette; $24.98 DVD) is a crowd pleaser about a Montreal dentist who gets caught up with the Chicago hit man who has moved next door. They become buddies, sort of, when both find themselves on the run from killers.

Matthew Perry plays the dentist, whose wife wants him dead to collect a big insurance payoff. Bruce Willis is gun-for-hire Jimmy "The Tulip" Tudeski, hiding out in suburban Montreal from a Chicago rival.

When the dentist travels to Chicago, at the urgings of his greedy wife, to collect a bounty from a mob boss who wants The Tulip planted, he meets and falls for a gorgeous woman who claims to be The Tulip's wife.

Sure, the situations in The Whole Nine Yards are contrived and improbable. The characters are often called on to do outrageous and unlikely things in order to keep it playing light and funny. Fortunately, it is light and funny, which is why The Whole Nine Yards became a surprise hit last winter.

A surprise flop last winter was Roman Polanski's hell-bent The Ninth Gate (Artisan, no suggested price cassette; $24.98 DVD). I'd expected more interest in this creepy tale from the director of Rosemary's Baby.

Johnny Depp plays profit-driven book dealer Dean Corso who is searching for a book that supposedly can conjure up Satan himself if its nine engravings are put together in a certain order and their message read aloud.

Of course the plot is mumbo jumbo, but the film has a nightmarish sensibility that makes it easy to be mesmerized as Dean travels all over Europe looking for clues -- from a dusty Spanish bookstore to a rundown chateau in Portugal to a fashionable Paris salon to a strange castle deep in the Pyrenees Mountains. Just about wherever he looks, however, someone winds up murdered by a mysterious, unseen hand.

Polanski creates a growing sense of unease throughout The Ninth Gate, even when he's setting us up for laughs, as he does with a pair of old Spanish booksellers, played by the same merry-faced actor as mischievous twins.

Although Polanski's firm grip on foreboding terror unravels as Dean gets closer to his goal and things become overwrought, The Ninth Gate manages to squeak out a grabber of an ending that is a satisfactory payoff for everything that has come before.

I can always count on a bright time with Jim Henson's Bear in the Big Blue House series and I wasn't disappointed with the latest offering -- Visiting the Doctor with Bear (Columbia TriStar, $12.95).

There are two stories on the tape -- The Big Blue House Call and That Healing Feeling. Both revolve around visits with Dr. Hogg and both are designed to help nervous children get over their fears about seeing a doctor. In the first story, Bear's little orange bear friend O'Joe is terrified about having a checkup and getting a vaccination shot. In the second, Tutter, the little blue mouse, must visit the good doctor after a book falls on his tail and it's bent out of shape.

Both episodes turn out right for the nervous critters thanks to sound advice from Bear and the other animals and from toe-tapping tunes such as Just Say Ow and It's Over. A good time will be had by all.

I'd been expecting to see director Ang Lee's Civil War epic Ride With the Devil (Universal, no suggested price cassette; $24.98 DVD) in local theaters last winter after it won some good reviews in early openings. Lee is the Taiwanese director renowned for his sensitive touch in Sense and Sensibility and The Ice Storm.

After watching Ride With the Devil, however, I could see why it didn't get a wide release. It never was screened here.

It's about Confederate sympathizers who organize a guerrilla force against Union troops along the Missouri-Kansas border. They call themselves Bushwhackers and they perpetrate the same kind of grim war atrocities that have kept a lot of people away from Mel Gibson's Revolutionary War epic The Patriot.

Ride With the Devil also fought an uphill battle because it's surprisingly talky and celebrated the losing side. Even when these guys make small successes, we know they're doomed. They seem fool-hardy.

It has a very low-key hero in Tobey Maguire's Jake, who joins the Confederate side against the wishes of his pro-Union father. Jake wants the freedom to be able to own slaves. Oddly, however, one of the key men in his guerrilla troop is a freed slave (Jeffrey Wright) who has cast his lot with men who are murdering his people. Maguire has a sleepy delivery and fails to make the kind of hero most people would want to identify with. To his credit, however, Jake is appalled by the monstrous things he witnesses . . . and so are we.

When the Bushwhackers invade a pro-Union town, the movie reaches epic proportions, although their callous slayings of the townspeople are hardly something to cheer.

Ride With the Devil is perhaps most notable for bringing singer Jewel to the screen. She does a commendable -- if low-key -- job as a widow who is loved by both Jake and his best friend, Jack (Skeet Ulrich). But Jake is too much a gentleman to show his true feelings and so the potential fireworks between these two never get detonated.

New on DVD:

Warner has Alicia Silverstone as a flirty teenager in The Crush, Sharon Stone involved in murder in the thriller Diabolique and Joanne Whalley as a juror whose son's life is threatened in Trial by Jury. They're $24.98 each.

Rob Reiner's adventure-fantasy The Princess Bride, featuring Billy Crystal and Mandy Patinkin, is on disk at $19.98 from MGM. The studio also has the Oscar-winning post-war classic The Best Years of Our Lives, the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Easy Money and Kenneth Branagh's action-filled Henry V at $19.98 each.

Two of comedian George Carlin's concert performances -- Jammin' in New York and Doin' It Again -- are available on one disk from Columbia TriStar at $29.95.

Just in time to coincide with the release of the feature film Pokemon THe Movie 2000, Pioneer has released two more volumes culled from the hit TV series. At $14.98 each on cassette ($24.98 on DVD) are Our Hero Meowth and The Final Badge.

The irrepressible Olsen twins try on new outfits in preparation for the school dance in the new You're Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley's School Dance Party from Warner. Meanwhile, two new compilation titles -- You're Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley's Greatest Parties and The Amazing Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley -- each containing three adventures that were previously available elsewhere -- are out this week. All titles sell for $14.95 each.