Perhaps all that needs be said about Kettle of Fish is that it’s a movie in which an attractive single woman’s frog falls in love with an attractive single man’s fish. The first feature by Claudia Myers, who grew up in Paris and now lives in D.C., Kettle of Fish is briskly directed and not noticeably confined by what must have been a modest budget. But the good news ends there. The central roles are woefully miscast, and Myers’ staging is undercut by her script, which is—how to put this politely?—dreadful.

The film opens with nobody’s idea of a fresh intro: a montage of a playboy saxophonist’s adventures in bed with a series of women. Mel (Matthew Modine) is not the marrying kind, but then he has a heart-to-heart with Freddie (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), his bandmate and pal. Freddie is older and African-American—a combination that’s usually equated with wisdom in movies—so Mel is swayed when Freddie tells him that true love requires commitment. Mel decides to move in with his latest fling, Inga (Ewa Da Cruz), and when that doesn’t click, he develops a crush on Diana (Christy Cashman), who he meets while they’re both on the way to her wedding. (He’s in the reception band.) Meanwhile, he doesn’t notice that Ginger, the unglamorous “amphibian behaviorist” to whom he’s sublet his apartment, is that wild bisexual chick from Bound and Showgirls, only with her hair up and glasses on.

Yes, it’s Gina Gershon, who’s about as convincing as a prissy science nerd as the pushing-50 Modine is as a boyish jazz virtuoso. She’s living in Mel’s apartment when he decides to flee Inga and return. A more efficient storyteller would have had them share the place until they make a connection, but Myers has another whole gambit in reserve: Ginger moves out but stays in touch with Mel because she wants to analyze the way his goldfish, Daphne, reacts to his sax solos. (Every species loves Mel’s playing, because he’s, well, just plain adorable, supposedly.) While at the lab, Daphne and Casanova, a frog whose sexual behavior Ginger is studying, become inseparable. Too bad Mel and Ginger’s animal attraction isn’t as rapid; it would have saved everyone about 90 minutes of bad sax and worse dialogue.

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