In watching "The Whole Ten Yards," one thing is instantly clear--the four years between films were not spent hammering out a smart, cleverly-nuanced screenplay. Indeed, those harboring high hopes that "Midnight Run" writer George Gallo and veteran director Howard Deutch might deliver something worthwhile would do well to suspend any and all expectations. It would be hard, in fact, to imagine more than four days going into this script, which is so razor thin and haphazardly conceived as to make the previous one seem like Chaucer.
Things pick up roughly as they were left, with Matthew Perry's neurotic dentist Nicholas "Oz" Oseransky now happily married to Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), while Cynthia's ex-husband, psychotic ex-hit man Jimmy "The Tulip" Tudeski (Bruce Willis), is settled in Mexico with his wife Jill (Amanda Peet), Oz's ex-dental assistant. The two couples aren't really in touch any more... or so they think. Oz and Jill still chat, as do Cynthia and Jimmy, albeit without the knowledge of their respective spouses. Such things wouldn't ordinarily amount to much, but after Hungarian mobster Lazlo Gogolak (Kevin Pollak) is released from prison and sets out to avenge the death of his son Janni, little things blow up big and the dominoes begin falling precipitously.
Unless one is a serious fan of the first film, it will take some considerable head-scratching and memory jogging to recall that Janni Gogolak was the bad guy in "The Whole Nine Yards." Those with even greater elephantine powers of recollection may, at that stage, recall that Janni was also played by Kevin Pollak. It's definitely far too obscure and inside of a joke to really work, but that doesn't diminish Pollak's very enjoyable performance. Hamming it up under a ridiculous coating of latex makeup, he's the saving grace of this picture, taking the exaggerated Hungarian accent he used in the previous film and pushing it even more over the top. But the rest of the cast has no such latitude--without a script, they're left to fumble about, trying to coast by on charisma and chemistry alone. The handful of laughs they are able to eke out come only in disembodied snippets, most of which are weighted to the end of the film, coming long after most audiences will already have exited the theater. Starring Bruce Willis, Matthew Perry, Amanda Peet, Kevin Pollak and Natasha Henstridge Directed by Howard Deutch. Written by George Gallo. Produced by Arnold Rifkin, David Willis, Elie Samaha and Allan Kaufman. A Warner Bros. release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for sexual content, some violence and language. Running time: 99 min