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Trial and Error
Starring Michael Richards and Jeff Daniels
Screenplay by Sara Bernstein
Directed by Jonathan Lynne

IN SHORT: Amiable and funny, but all TV type stuff.

Ok, let's get this out of the way real fast. Trial and Error is not, repeat not, Kramer in the courtroom, though Michael Richards is so tied to his Seinfeld character that Kramer-type stumbles sneak in, by my count, two and a half times. If you were looking for a big screen Kramer, this isn't it.

Which is fine by Cranky.

Trial and Error is the simple story of more than straitlaced lawyer Charles Tuttle (Jeff Daniels) and his best friend since boyhood Richard Rietti (Richards). The night of his bachelor party, Tuttle is sent off to a nowheresville called Paradise Bluffs, Nevada, to defend a cousin of the senior partner of the Firm (and soon to be father-in-law). Rietti packs up the party and breaks every speed limit law to get to Paradise first, and get Straitlaced blotto.

One thing leads to another and Rietti winds up impersonating Tuttle to ask the Judge for a continuance of trial. Judge denies same and Tuttle, er Rietti, must continue the impersonation.

A couple of things to interject here: the defendant is a con man named Benny Gibbs, magnificently portrayed by Rip Torn of HBO's Larry Sanders Show. The con is too clever to reveal here. The attempts for real lawyer (Tuttle as Rietti) to communicate with fake lawyer (Rietti as Tuttle) range from amusing to slapstick. All fine and dandy. Add extra points for local waitress, and soon to be additional love interest Billie, played by, be still my heart, Charlize Theron. Theron's appearance is good enough reason to see the flick, if you're a red blooded hetero-type, and her natural performance is a perfect counterpart to the over the top perfs by Daniels and Richards.

Most all of the characters are stereotypes of some sort. From the Princess of a fiancé (Alexandra Wentworth) to the tight-assed local prosecutor (Jessica Steen) who falls into a relationship you are just not going to believe. Trial and Error plays out nicely until the very end where tab B is forced into slot A and, well, I've come close enough to giving it away. There aren't that many characters, so there aren't that many story twists to play out.

Folks, I'm making Trial and Error sound like a piece of crap. It isn't. The story is simple, and enjoyable, and much better suited to the small screen than the big. Period.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Trial and Error, he would have paid...


Trial and Error is generally fun and cute and not a bad time in the dark. Cranky can't rave and Cranky can't slam it. It's decidedly a small screen view.

Click to buy films by Jonathan Lynne
Click to buy films starring Jeff Daniels
Click to buy films starring Michael Richards

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