'One Small Hitch': Film Review

This is what they mean when they say they don't make good romantic comedies anymore

Two old friends pretend to be engaged only to fall in love for real in John Burgess' romantic comedy

A woman so desperate for marriage that she has "Here Comes the Bride" as her ringtone. A man so commitment-phobic that his dying father's only regret is that he'll never meet the woman his son will one day marry. Naturally, they're a perfect match, at least in the sort of formulaic romantic comedies of which One Small Hitch is a typical example. Add to that an endless array of stereotypes involving Jews and Irish Catholics, and you have the gist of John Burgess' debut feature.

The film begins with the couple in question encountering each other in typical "meet cute" fashion, except that they already know each other. Molly (Aubrey Dollar) is flying home to Chicago for her mother's wedding with a "Mystery Man" in tow, only she dumps him upon finding out that he's already married. Her childhood friend Josh (Shane McRae) is traveling to the same event, but when he gets a telephone call in which his father Max (Daniel J. Travanti) informs him that he's dying of cancer, he immediately devises a plan in which he and Molly will pretend to be engaged. Isn't that something any of us would do?

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Not so much hilarity ensues, as Josh and Molly find themselves having to share a bedroom which they promptly divide in "Walls of Jericho" style from It Happened One Night. And despite such bumps in the road as Josh's dalliance with a sexually aggressive friend with benefits (Heidi Johanningmeier), he and Molly soon find themselves, you guessed it, genuinely falling in love.

The screenplay by Dode B. Levenson misses nary a single cliché endemic to the genre, including, groan, a montage set to a pop song in which two women wackily try on a variety of outfits.

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That the film works to any extent is due to the appeal of the two leads: McRae wisely underplays his character's playboy-style arrogance, and Dollar manages to infuse some authentic emotional notes into the proceedings. And it's always a pleasure to reencounter the veteran Travanti, who's been far too little seen since his Emmy Award-winning work on Hill Street Blues. He deserves better than this.

Production: Principle Entertainment
Cast: Shane McRae, Aubrey Dollar, Daniel J. Travanti, Janet Ulrich Brooks, Ron Dean, Mary Jo Faraci, Robert Belushi, Rebecca Spence, Heidi Johanningmeier
Director: John Burgess
Screenwriter: Dode B. Levenson
Producers: John Burgess, Brett Henenberg
Executive producers: Carol Burgess, John Burgess
Director of photography: Tari Segal
Production designer: Adri Siriwatt
Editor: Ryan Koscielniak
Costume designer: Aly Barohn
Composer: Cody Westheimer
Casting: Monika Mikkelsen, Claire Simon

No rating, 105 min.