by Robyn Buckley and Adam Riske
Adam: Robyn, we recently watched two movies that I hadn’t seen before from 1996 (always a perk of FTM FEST week): Chain Reaction and The Truth About Cats & Dogs. I’d meant to see both of these movies ever since 1996, but I avoided the former because of its poor reviews and the latter because it was a romantic comedy, and I was only 14 years old in 1996 and not quite converted into a romcom fan as of yet. I believe you’d seen The Truth About Cats & Dogs but not Chain Reaction, right? What did you think of each of them in these recent viewings?
Robyn: My recollection of The Truth About Cats and Dogs was that Janeane Garofalo was gorgeous, and it was odd that they put her as the Cyrano-esque character. Beyond that, I didn't remember much of the actual film. On a rewatch, I enjoyed The Truth About Cats and Dogs well enough, although I found myself much more invested in the friendship between Janeane’s Abby and Uma Thurman’s Noelle than the actual romance. Give me a movie that is just those two women hanging out and becoming best friends despite being polar opposites!
Adam: I had a lot of fun with Chain Reaction for about 30 minutes. It reminded me so much of a B-picture that would run on a double feature with The Fugitive. Keanu Reeves is Harrison Ford. Fred Ward is Tommy Lee Jones. Instead of the U.S. Marshals, it’s the FBI. Morgan Freeman is the friend/mentor turned foe, etc. It doesn’t help that both movies are directed by Andrew Davis, set in Chicago and feature supporting actors and extras from The Fugitive showing up in similar roles in Chain Reaction. As long as Chain Reaction was basically the funhouse mirror image of The Fugitive, I was on board. However, it gets uninteresting as the plot unfurls and there’s not much in the way of interesting characterization for me to hang onto. Morgan Freeman is the closest thing to a three-dimensional character, but his resolution is such a shrug (similar to how it was in 1998’s Hard Rain) that it becomes frustrating like Freeman was unwilling to go all-in on playing evil.
I probably most enjoyed Morgan Freeman because like you said, he had some actual dimension to his character, as opposed to the cartoonishly evil Brian Cox. Cox’s character seemed to enjoy doing evil for the hell of it, even when it made his actual plans more difficult. That was frustrating! I noted earlier that Chain Reaction is a perfect airplane movie and I stand by that. It’s made to be watched while drifting off to sleep while the drone of an airplane surrounds you. I feel like a lot of '90s mid-tier thrillers are best enjoyed in that fashion.
Adam: I saw Deep Impact on an airplane and now can never watch it unless I’m thousands of feet in the air.
Robyn: The lie in The Truth About Cats & Dogs is extra frustrating because there seems to me to be no real reason for it! Abby seems confident and sure of herself throughout the movie and we never really get the idea that Ben Chaplin’s character would reject her based on her looks. She’s just as pretty as Noelle, only with dark hair and not as tall! If I was him, I’m not sure that I could ever really forgive the lie? The trust issues I would have would be insurmountable. Imagine how awkward it will be the next time he’s out with Abby and her best friend who he is clearly very attracted to (even if he chose Janeane Garofalo in the end) comes along. Or do we just assume Noelle and Abby never interact again? I think that The Truth About Cats & Dogs works better the less that one thinks about the actual consequences of the characters actions. Adam, would you recommend these movies to our readers? I would say yes, but to go in with reasonable expectations.
Adam: I don’t think I would, which is a super awkward place to land when wrapping up a column. Listen to Robyn, everyone.