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Starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale; Molly Shannon, Jeremy Piven, John Corbett and Eugene Levy
Written by Marc Klein
Directed by Peter Chelsom

IN SHORT: A sleek, sexy, sophisticated, superior dateflick for grownups. [Rated Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, and for brief language. 85 minutes]

Summer being officially over, we are now sitting through a glut of dateflicks aimed at those of us for whom the designation "teen" is history. Last week's cluster, all filled with A-list names, were decent enough sits but none was worth more than our "dateflick" rating (as in one half of the pair is going to like it).

That changes now with Serendipity, a tale about a couple destined to be together and too clumsy to make the initial connection. From here on in, we're going to tell you as little as we can about the film, for the simple reason that we're not going to spoil the fun. In other hands, with other actors, Serendipity may have been an average, lightweight romance with bits of comedy strewn about it. Here, though, the stars have real chemistry and the story's subtext -- it's either going to happen or it isn't -- plays out in ways that are as exciting as they are infuriating.

Simply, if you've been dating for a number or years or if you're someone whose reached that point in your life where long dormant memories fire up so you start thinking "what if," then you'll lock on hard to this flick.

Seven years and five days prior to a Christmas long ago, Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) rushes through Bloomingdale's department store, looking for a present for his girlfriend. He spots a pair, the last pair, of black cashmere gloves and makes like a bloodhound for 'em. So does attractive Brit Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale), who reaches the gloves from the opposite direction at the exact same time. While they squabble over the gloves, a spark flies. Once it's settled who gets what, and after both fight off another customer (Buck Henry) one takes the other to the real life Serendipity 3 for frozen hot chocolate. This quick "thank you" becomes a perfect eight hour day and a request for a phone number. Ah, if it were that simple, there would be no story here! Since the lady believes in Happenstance and Destiny (and thus the "real" title) she has Jonathan write his phone number on the back of a five dollar bill which, if it comes back into her possession, she will use to call him. It goes both ways. She writes her number inside the cover of a copy of "Love in the Time of Cholera" which Jonathan will have to find in some unnamed used book store.

Is Sara a ditz? Is she flighty? Is she out of her mind or, perhaps, a wee bit too wide eyed and open to the cosmos? Either way, she leaves the man behind not knowing her name and with only half a pair of cashmere gloves to show for his eight hours time. Now, a movie about hunting books would be rather pointless (and that part of the hunt is dispensed with in the dialog) so flash forward to present time, in which both are settled in careers, Jonathan as a producer for ESPN and Sara as a very less wide-eyed psychologist. As well, both are about to settle the rest of their lives. Jonathan is two days away from getting married to the very lovely Halley (Bridget Moynahan). Sara is about to become engaged to successful musician (John Corbett).

Destiny, as it always seems to do, rears its ugly head one final time. Jonathan has last minute jitters. He finds the solo glove and within it, a credit card receipt. He still doesn't know Sara's name, [the standard Bloomingdale's card only has an account number on it,] but at least he has a place to start the hunt for one final look at the potential love he left behind all those years ago. With the help of his best friend Dean (Jeremy Piven), Jonathan takes the last 20 hours of his singlehood and returns to 59th street where a Bloomingdales sales clerk (Eugene Levy) will do anything to make a sale, except divulge confidential information. Roughly at the same time, a different memory trigger sends Sara back to New York. That's all you need to know.

Any quibbles we may have may be laid to rest by thinking that the setting of this film is five years back (i.e. 1996). As a born and bred New Yorker there a couple of bothersome things that would submarine the factual bits in this film, if we didn't make that adjustment. If you're outside the city, just consider this 'graph the raving of a man old enough to go through that "what if" self-doubt.

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


The real life Serendipity 3 is on 60th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Manhattan. Take the 4, 5, 6, Q or W (N or R) subways to Lexington Avenue 59th street to get there. Don't eat a huge meal prior to going. You've been warned.

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