(WARNING: This review contains plot spoilers!)
There is a point about an hour into "Head Over Heels" -- a romantic comedy about a girl who thinks her Mr. Right might be a murderer -- at which the sheer idiocy of the plot and the complete incompetence of the actors seems to be suspended and the singular nugget of potential buried in the script begins to peek out.
The highly contrived, failed Farrelly Brother gimmickry (boy meets girl when his Great Dane knocks her down and tries to hump her) disappears. The lackluster dialogue becomes lucid and out of nowhere several promising, truly funny gags are strung together for long enough that I wrote in my notes "has some seriously clever moments"...
...Then the picture blindsides the audience with a painfully vapid, out-of-nowhere kidnapping/diamond smuggling subplot involving Russian mobsters and FBI agents undercover as fashion industry executives. And it's all downhill from there.
Actually, save that fleeting few moments of promise into which all the movies good grins are crammed, "Head Over Heels" is all down hill from the get-go.
Monica Potter ("Patch Adams") stars as painting restorer for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art who has bad luck picking men. When she comes home early to find her latest beau giving a pony ride to an underwear model, she packs up her things and rents the first room she can find -- which, as her bad luck would have it, happens to be in an apartment full of models.
Because director Mark Waters ("The House of Yes") makes only the vaguest effort to do anything snappy or original, these "struggling" models (a cultural cross-section of real-life runway mannequins in cue-card performances as shallow bimbos) spend their first scenes dancing around topless in their impossibly fabulous, 3,000 square foot Manhattan flat and giving Potter an uptown hooker makeover.
This is supposed to help her catch the eye of the phenomenally flavorless and untalented Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Hollywood's shameless go-to pretty boy for rotten romantic comedies), whom she gazes at daily from the models' apartment window, which overlooks his. But after Potter and Prinze fall for each other, she witnesses what looks like a murder in his apartment and begins to think she's topped herself again when it comes to choosing bad boyfriends.
Sloppy, screwball stalker humor ensues as Monica and her model pals investigate Freddie, and very occasionally a genuinely jocose -- and usually risqué -- raillery or two sneaks into the proceedings. (Example: Upon arriving at a party in rather sheer dresses, the models remind each other to "turn on the headlights" and start pinching -- well, you get the idea.)
But a handful of blushing, out-loud laughs hardly makes up for the torture of sitting through the embarrassing acting, the counterfeit characters (Potter's best friend/co-worker, an artificially funky, token lipstick lesbian) and the complete disregard for common sense. Nobody in this movie ever goes to work -- not even the models during Fashion Week. They spend their days helping Potter tail Prinze to see what he's hiding.
Recast this movie with folks who can act, lose the Russian mafia feeble-mindedness and the inevitable fashion show fiasco finale, and maybe -- just maybe -- "Head Over Heels" could have squeaked by as a throw-away, guilty-pleasure comedy.
But that's the kindest statement you'll get out of me after sitting through this cinematic poppycock.