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By Kevin Carr | September 6, 2004

Being a movie reviewer isn’t just about getting to see the big summer blockbusters early. Sometimes you have to drag your butt out to see a truly awful movie… like “Wicker Park.”

I hadn’t heard much about this one, but when I saw it advertised several weeks ago, I thought it might be pretty good. The trailer presented a story of stolen identity in a taut psychological thriller. It made me think that maybe we had a “Single White Female” for a new generation.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

First of all, this isn’t a thriller at all. There’s nothing thrilling about it. Oh sure, there are some twists to the plot, but the filmmakers show their hand too many times and too much. By the time all the secrets are revealed (quite early in the second act, I might add), you’re left with a pedantic story that just sort of plays itself out without any real excitement.

The central flaw which makes this film fall apart is its characters. In film, characters are defined primarily by their actions. Sometimes they’re defined by what they say or what people say about them, but the strongest characters are defined by what they do in the face of conflict. And the characters’ actions here are goofy, immature, unsettling and at times downright silly.

The film is about Matthew (Josh Hartnett), who has the seemingly perfect life. He’s rocketing to the top of his company where he’s dating the boss’s sister, who happens to be supermodel gorgeous. However, as he gets ready for a business trip to China, he thinks he hears his old girlfriend Lisa (Dine Kruger) on a public phone. He tries to chase her down, but she disappears into the crowd outside. His only clue is a hotel key he finds in the phone booth.

So, this Romeo decides the best thing to do would be to let himself into her hotel. A little creepy, huh? Apparently not for the women in this movie. Now we learn about Matthew’s past with Lisa, which began with him stalking her based on her image in a home video camera he was fixing. Things turn ridiculous when Lisa finds his stalking rather charming and begins a relationship with him.

But things had gone awry, and one day Lisa just disappeared. Matthew didn’t seem to mourn her loss that much because he just went on with his life and got engaged to a new hottie in less than two years. But now that he thinks he found her again, he risks everything in his life to reconnect.

The character of Matthew is a complete buffoon who spends more time stalking women than actually interacting with them in a relationship setting. On the eve of his engagement and in the middle of his quest to find his lost love, he manages to bed another girl (Rose Byrne) he mistakes for Lisa. How much sympathy can the audience have for a guy who looks like Josh Hartnett who is stuck in a quandary of whom he should continue to boink – the hot supermodel-looking boss’s sister, the sexy Helen of Troy dancer from his past or the beautiful yet mentally unbalanced hottie he fell into bed with after a botched stalking session.

This movie has all the elements of a thriller or suspense film without actually using them. It’s like the suburban husband who buys the latest set of shop tools but hasn’t the foggiest idea what to do with them once they get to his garage.

There is only one saving grace to this film, and it is Matthew Lillard as Matthew’s buddy whom he coincidentally runs into during this mess they call a plot. Lillard’s humor and presence gives some needed comic relief, although his character is ultimately as shallow and worthless as the others in this film.

As a reviewer, I’m afforded the luxury of seeing films at pre-release screenings. But you know there’s a problem when you’re dying to walk out of a free screening and demand your money back. However, “Wicker Park” had that effect on me. Even the rest of the audience didn’t buy it and ended up laughing at the emotional moments near the end of the film.

“Wicker Park” is such a horrible film not entirely for what it is, but for what it could have been and should have been. They had everything there, but they just didn’t do anything with it. The story had no guts and cheated the audience with such insanely coincidental plot twists that made me to fight to stay in my seat. After a year of ups and downs in the movie world, “Wicker Park” has earned a special place in my cold, black heart and is currently the reigning champ as worst film of 2004.

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