In her first romantic comedy since "Pretty Woman," Julia Roberts proves once more that she knows her way around a quip, cleverly delivering sardonic one-liners and reacting comically with wit and charm. In fact, she is so good that you may wonder why we don't see her in more comedies, instead of mediocre thrillers like "The Pelican Brief," "Flatliners" and "Sleeping With the Enemy."
Of course, "I Love Trouble" is also mediocre, so maybe it's just the choices she makes.
In truth, just about everything there is to like in "I Love Trouble" comes from Roberts, who plays Sabrina Peterson, an overconfident rookie reporter at a we're-No. 2-so-we-try-harder newspaper in Chicago.
Her first big story, a mysterious train wreck, brings Sabrina to the attention of Peter Brackett (Nick Nolte), a celebrity columnist at the No. 1 paper in town. Peter is a womanizing, cigar-chomping jerk, whose first novel has just been published, and he's having the time of his life basking in the limelight.
But he's also become lazy and full of himself, and when he turns in a recycled column, his boss punishes Peter by sending him out to cover the train wreck. But while he turns in a cursory story, Sabrina digs up a scoop. The next day, she scoops him again. So, Peters's adrenalin is pumped up as he becomes determined not to let this young upstart get the better of him.
"I Love Trouble" is at its best during the first half, chronicling Sabrina and Peter's rivalry as they close in on the story (the train was sabotaged). But in the second half, as they become targets of the bad guys and decide to team up-- though neither can be completely honest about sharing information-- the film gets sluggish.
The married filmmaking team of Charles Shyer and Nancy Myers (he directed, she produced and they co-wrote the script, just as they did for "Baby Boom" and "Father of the Bride") are movie buffs, and their love of the old '30s and '40s screwball comedies is evident. "I Love Trouble" obviously wants to be a modern equivalent of the "Thin Man" movies with William Powell and Myrna Loy, along with "Woman of the Year" (Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn) and "His Girl Friday" (Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell).
But where those pictures were laced with witty dialogue and sharp satire, "I Love Trouble" is laced with vulgarisms.
Worse are the thriller aspects. At one point Sabrina says, "I'm not good at this 'Lethal Weapon' stuff. " And neither are Shyer and Myers. When the thriller overwhelms the comedy-- complete with gunplay and shattering glass--the film really loses its way.
There isn't much chemistry between Roberts and Nolte, either. Though borh stars are relaxed and obviously having fun, the romantic elements are never believable.
There is also a first-rate supporting cast, filled with prominent actors-- Robert Loggia, Olympia Dukakis, Marsha Mason, Charles Martin Smith-- none given anything of substance to do.
Roberts alone makes this one worth the ride, and there are enough moments to satisfy her fans. So, it's nice that she has another hit on her hands but wouldn't it be nicer if this were also a really good movie?
"I Love Trouble" is rated PG for violence, profanity and vulgarity.<