Rated PG-13 for some sexual reference
January 13, 2006
Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timoth Hutton, Gerard Depardieu, Alicia Witt, Giancarlo Esposito
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By Jennifer E. Jones
Meet Georgia Byrd. She’s a shy 30-something who works as an under-appreciated cookware salesperson at a department store. She’s a talented chef but passes off her culinary masterpieces to the boy next door while she eats a Lean Cuisine frozen dinner. Georgia is content to fade into the back of her church choir and the back of her life until she’s diagnosed with a rare terminal disease. Suddenly, she discovers that she has a life of regret behind her and only three weeks to turn it around.
Paramount Pictures presents her fictional tale in Last Holiday. Director Wayne Wang brings the 1950 classic into full color with Queen Latifah (Chicago, Bringing Down the House) and LL Cool J (S.W.A.T., Any Given Sunday) leading a comical cast. Audiences are taken on a joy ride while Georgia drains her savings and lives the life she always dreamed of in the real-life central European Grandhotel Pupp.
This is a romantic comedy with a little something more. It’s the story of a woman who turns her book of possibilities into realities (without much explanation of how much money it takes to do so). Financial recklessness aside, viewers get to indulge with Georgia on her adventures in base jumping and ordering an entire menu of chef specials. Along the way, she inspires everyone she meets to take their dreams off the shelf.
We’ve seen this film before, and I don’t mean the original version starring Alec Guinness and Beatrice Campbell. This type of movie is quite common: the ugly duckling turns into the swan, the underdog becomes the star, the forgotten one shines in the spotlight. Last Holiday is full of movie cliches right down to the lovers' kiss being applauded by a surrounding audience. To boot, you don’t need to think too hard to figure out how it will end if you’ve ever watched a gimmick-driven romantic comedy before.
That being said, Last Holiday is still a good date movie for people who just want to laugh. If you overlook the familiarity of the story, it’s actually quite charming and even a little inspiring.
No one could have played this role but the Queen. Latifah displays the emotional range of a woman living irreverently on the edge of life after spending so much time on the sidelines. She also plays the timid, unconfident subordinate so well that you’d never remember this is the same woman who is known more for her domineering roles. You feel her sincerity at every turn… even the ones you see coming.
LL Cool J is also taking a step back from his usual tough guy persona. As the love interest, Sean Matthews, LL Cool J is like a teenage boy with a crush around Georgia. He’s so endearing and sweet that I wished his character were fleshed out more than the typical surface boyfriend role.
Lastly, I have to mention Timothy Hutton’s performance as the evil tycoon Matthew Kragen. He fits the stereotypical bad-guy role well with great comedic timing.
Cuisine-lovers will get a special treat in Last Holiday. The food in this film is almost a character in itself. The director teamed with the Food Network, and expert chefs oversaw the daily creations of amazing meals such as risotto barolo, lobster salad, and beef goulash. Shots of these delightful dishes are literally mouth-watering. My advice: eat before you go to the theater.
Last Holiday is generally a clean film but a few key sexual innuendoes and a sprinkling of curse words may unnerve some viewers. It’s certainly not for young kids but teens should be able to handle it.
Over all, Last Holiday is a cute comedy albeit predictable. If anything, it’s light post-Christmas fun that serves as a gentle reminder to not wait for death to teach you how to live.
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