“Cherish” is slightly less than lovable. It’s a strained romantic comedy that starts promisingly, takes a hard left turn and slowly falls apart. As Zoe Adler, a romance-starved animator, Robin Tunney has charm to spare, but the movie strands her in a story that is just…weird. Not quirky, not kooky, but weird.
With the main credits, director Finn Taylor establishes a light ’60s-styled romantic fantasia, complete with the Association’s “Cherish” on the soundtrack and Tunney waltzing around San Francisco in wacky candy-colored attire. (One of the film’s failings is that we never get any sense of the great city; if you bother to shoot in San Francisco, how about showing it off?) While Zoe makes moon-eyes at a greasy co-worker (Jason Priestley), it would appear that a crazed stalker only has eyes for her. This is where the trouble starts, and the movie never has a chance to recover.
The details are too tiresome to relate, but soon enough Zoe finds herself under house arrest, slapped with an ankle bracelet, locked down in a cruddy slum loft. There she spends most of the next hour, trying out various half-assed escape plans and flirting with Daly, a fastidious representative of “the company” (the company that manufactures the ankle bracelets, that is). As Daly, Tim Blake Nelson gets to pull a few funny faces and wears a formidable collection of hideous ties. He and Tunney make a cute couple, but again, the movie can’t figure out what to do with them.
“Cherish” has its moments, but deploys its quirkiness like Michæl Bay deploys his pyro crew: too often and too damn hard. Mixing queasy violence and cheesy ’80s pop tunes (are you out there, Hall and/or Oates?), the tone is ten places at once. And for a little indie, it makes the classic Hollywood bonehead mistake of asking us to believe that a girl who looks like Robin Tunney is incapable of landing a man. Ummm…hello?