By M. Stephanie Murray
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 4, 1997

'Excess Baggage' carries little weight


Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Alicia Silverstone stars in 'Excess Baggage.'

by M. Stephanie Murray

I had two good reasons for seeing "Excess Baggage." First, I firmly believe that if someone could transplant Alicia Silverstone's voice into Winona Ryder's body we would finally have a good pop culture actress for our generation. Second, ever since Antonio Banderas married Melanie Griffith and got icky, I have been searching for a good swarthy movie-star boy to have a crush on. I was hoping Benicio Del Toro could be the one.

As for the movie, I couldn't have cared less. Rich girl Emily (Silverstone) conceives of a plan to kidnap herself, hoping to inspire her indifferent father to heights of concern and love. Car thief with a heart of gold steals car rich girl is hidden in. Wackiness ensues. Romance blossoms.

And that would have been that, except for the casting. Del Toro, who you'll remember as the mumbly guy from "The Usual Suspects," is the charming, quirky car thief. Christopher Walken is Alicia's slightly creepy but caring "Uncle" Ray. Harry Connick, Jr., who one of these days should just get back to singing, is Del Toro's car-thieving associate. Nicholas Turturro, from "NYPD Blue," is a car thief minus the heart of gold. And then there's Alicia.

Which makes for an hour and a half of Battle of the Twitchy Acting Styles. Close-ups of Alicia's smirks vie for screen time with Del Toro's "swatting at invisible flies" technique. Turturro is apparently trying to be even more of a munchkin wiseguy than Joe Pesci. Harry's character development is blinking a lot and saying "Gosh." And Walken is his usual Walken self, only this time with unearthly oxidized red hair.

(Walken's equally unearthly pink lipstick is the main distraction in this movie. Personally, it's been bugging me since "Pulp Fiction." Here, it spreads like kudzu. First it's on Chris, then on Benicio, then on Alicia, then it's on every stinkin' person in the movie. I've got a lovely Clinique flesh tone that I could pass along to Chris, if anyone knows an address to send it to.)

Plus, Alicia has apparently decided to become Action Girl of the '90s. All that rehearsal for "Batman & Robin" was useful, since Emily gets to roll down hills, fight boys, climb warehouse cross beams and other action-y stuff. There are also car chases and crashes and a big warehouse fire and explosion. Oh, and there are lots of pretty cars, though some of them get hurt.

As for my initial reasons for seeing the movie, well, Alicia does talk a lot. And by about halfway through, Benicio got cute, in a weird way. In a coming-down-off-four-hits-of-acid, sweaty, tired, loopy, stupid kind of way. Together, talky Alicia and strung-out Benicio make for a cute couple. There's even a very sweet Dork Love scene, where she becomes not a bitch and he becomes not stupid and they both become losers in love.

There are things to be learned here, as well. When kidnapping oneself, be sure to take along a spare tank top (in case you're gone overnight) and a safety-yellow jacket (in case you are stranded along a dark highway at night). Also, wear sensible shoes.

"Excess Baggage" is not a bad movie, though it is not a good movie. It's an incredibly mediocre movie, enlivened by the Battle of the Twitches and a couple scenes from another, better film. Hell, it's the end of summer, what do you expect? And shouldn't you be studying, anyway?


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