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Bedtime Stories - Tales from Our Commmunity

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Thomas Sanchez
Thomas Sanchez

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By Steven RosenDenver Post Movie Critic Mar. 23, 2001 - Say it isn't so, indeed. As I watched "Say It Isn't So," a horrifyingly moronic comedy that is boring rather than outrageous, I kept praying - to whoever in the theater might hear me - to make it go away. Make the projector catch fire or something. Please, not one more awful scene that revels in the all-too-calculated, testosterone-soaked, arrested-development "mookiness" (to quote the terminology of PBS' damning "Merchants of Cool" documentary about how entertainment conglomerates market naughty junk to teens) that passes for hip, daring humor these days. Not another teen girl flashing her pierced breasts - from which Christmas-ornamentsized jewelry hang - to her father. Not another hairdresser who accidentally clips off her client's ear. Not another wheelchairbound stroke victim who gets bombarded with pigeon droppings. "Say It Isn't So" was produced by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, who tellingly did not write or direct it. They merely lent their names to a film that is like a 10th-generation carbon copy of their "There's Something About Mary." This only besmirches their names. "Mary," which was no masterpiece, did mix the gross-out laughs with some unexpected charm, thanks largely to the lively and vivacious performance by Cameron Diaz. Alas, this has Heather Graham, as traditionally beautiful a blond as Diaz but whose annoying coyness here - it's as if she's auditioning for the role of Playboy's "Little Annie Fanny" - is no match for Diaz's daffiness. On the basis of this film, the mediocre "Committed" and "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," Graham wants to follow the Diaz path to stardom, which entails spoofing her own considerable physical attributes. More power to her, but she needs to find some decent movies to do so. And then she needs to act, really act, or she'll be a straight-to-video mainstay soon. (On the basis of "Boogie Nights" and "Two Girls and a Guy," by the way, she can act.) The plot, and I hesitate to mention it, revolves around a young and forlorn Indiana animal-rescue worker (Chris Klein) who falls in love with a gorgeous yet dangerously inept hairdresser (Graham). They have a charming courtship, experience the joy of sex, and plan on getting married ... but then discover they are long-lost siblings. In shock, she moves to Beaver, Ore., and an old, wealthy boyfriend. He mopes around with his (and her) wretched, long-lost parents - invalid father Richard Jenkins and witchlike trashy mom Sally Field (!). Needless to say, this is all a misunderstanding - they aren't really related. So he goes to Beaver to win her back. But her mom, who wants her to marry the arrogant rich guy, plots to hide the truth from her daughter. She enlists the good folks of Beaver to hunt down this incestuous pervert like a rodent. Like I say, I hesitate to mention it ... I hated watching it. Klein, so sweet in "Election," is clueless here. From all available evidence, antic comedy seems way beyond his range. And Orlando Jones, who brought a wonderful edge to his role in "Liberty Heights" and a relaxed sexiness to his part in "The Replacements," gets stuck as a Jimi Hendrix-lookalike pilot-for-hire named Dig. The part is beyond low brow and sort of wallows in racial stereotype at the same time that it spoofs it. But Jones plays it with gusto and actually has some funny scenes involving his character's artificial legs. The film is competently directed by J.B. Rogers, who has worked as an assistant director on other Farrelly Brothers films. The first-time screenwriters, Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow, show how groan ingly bad jokes and sight gags can make a bad idea even worse. How much shelf life is left for Farrelly-style comedy, anyway? Last year's "Me, Myself & Irene" already felt forced and stale. But it had exuberance, at least. "Say It Isn't So" replaces that with desperation and staleness. Much as I want to say it isn't so, Hollywood is still all too capable of making a movie as bad as this. (Steven Rosen reviews films at 8 a.m. Fridays on "The Dean and Mark in the Morning Show' on The Peak, 95.1 FM in Colorado Springs.) E-mail him at

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ON A COLD January afternoon three years ago, novelist and teacher David Bergen was walking home from his day job at Winnipeg's Kelvin High School when he spotted a teenage girl seated on the railing of the Maryland Bridge, her legs dangling above the Assiniboine River. She was leaning forward, and appeared intent on jumping. Pedestrians and cars went by; no one did anything. Bergen approached and managed to pull the girl onto the walkway and pin her down as she struggled. He asked two passing girls to run for help to a nearby hospital where, as it turned out, the teenager was a psychiatric patient. "I recall her anger, her sullenness, her lack of speech," says Bergen. "It struck me that she was very young and very drugged."

Bergen, 45, never heard what became of the girl he rescued, but she stayed with him. In his latest novel, The Case of Lena S., the title character is a suicidal, sexually provocative 17-year-old Winnipegger, and the struggle on the Maryland Bridge is described almost exactly as it occurred. One of five finalists for this year's English-language Governor General's fiction award, Bergen's novel revolves around the tortured, and sometimes twisted, relationship between the seductive Lena Schellendal and the unfortunate object of her desire, 16-year-old Mason Crowe. Bergen, who obviously knows this territory well, manages to plumb the messy, conflicted and always intense teenage psyche with both humour and pathos. The result is one of the most poignant, and ultimately disturbing, novels of the year.

As with Bergen's 1993 collection of short stories, Sitting Opposite My Brother, and two novels, A Year of Lesser (1996) and See the Child (1999), the new book spotlights the untold harm humans can wreak on those they profess to love. And once again, Bergen writes with a sexual frankness and attention to the more sordid details of life that may shock some readers. The teens who inhabit The Case of Lena S. are not the Brady Bunch. They casually... 041b061a72


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