Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Looking over Stephen Herek’s filmography, you gotta wonder what the director really wanted to do when he grew up. In Mr. Holland’s Opus, the title character finds gushy fulfillment in a teaching job he initially took only to pay the bills, eventually abandoning his goal of composing one piece of work that would make him famous. In Rock Star, Marky Mark has his dream of fronting his favorite band come true only to find that the wild ‘n’ crazy lifestyle isn’t as satisfying as hanging out in a parking lot with Jennifer Aniston. And now, in Life or Something Like It, Angelina Jolie plays Lanie Kerrigan, a news personality who learns that helmet-haired superblondes don’t necessarily have more fun. Lanie’s perfect life seems about to get even better with the promise of a promotion when she interviews an alleged prophet (Tony Shalhoub), who tells her that not only will she not get the job, but she’ll also be dead in a week. As each one of the seer’s other predictions comes true, Lanie starts to examine her life, via attempted-but-never-realized conversations with family members and her major-league-baseball boyfriend. She receives useful advice only from Pete (an uncharismatic Edward Burns), the cameraman with whom she has a love/hate relationship. Pete suggests that if Lanie consciously changes her life path—put simply, gives up on being a status-seeking power babe—she might be able to avoid her predicted fate. Though it’s billed as a comedy, Life or Something Like It is directed by Herek with an unexpectedly heavy hand—as in the silent close-up of Lanie he offers as the newscaster witnesses one of Prophet Jack’s more precise predictions unfolding. And besides keeping the movie from ever reaching its goal of being inspirational, the script’s skeletal development also fails its star, preventing the at-first credible Jolie from better exploring the when-ditzes-go-deep angle. Instead, she merely resorts midway through to playing a slightly sunnier version of herself. Herek adds a few twists, presumably to throw the audience off the trail of his cliched what-really-matters MO, but lands the movie more or less where you expected it to go anyway. By then, you’ll be hoping that Life’s box office will persuade the director to spend more time with his family and less in the workplace. —Tricia Olszewski