200 Cigarettes Movie Review

At first I was highly dubious about "200 Cigarettes." From whatI'd seen before hand, it looked like mediocre script at which the producersthrew a lot of hip actors hoping the cast would hoist it up to their level.And after all, it's a soundtrack-driven product of MTV Films -- not exactlya proud pedigree.

I'm delighted to report I was very much mistaken.

An ensemble comedy with a cast of a dozen breakout starsall traipsing through Manhattan misadventures on their separate ways tothe same party on New Year's Eve 1981, "Cigarettes" has a capricioushum about it and the same non-stop brand of comedic timing (although adifferent brand of comedy) that was honed to perfection in "There'sSomething About Mary"

Although it's an unpolished effort from movie newbies ShanaLarsen (writer) and Risa Bramon Garcia (director), there are no wastedscenes, no busted jokes, and a number of comedic crescendos that will sendyou roaring over the back of your chair. This is funny stuff.

The players and their plots shake out like this:

East Village misery-addict Paul Rudd ("Clueless")and his promiscuous, platonic pal Courtney Love battle long-buried romanticpredilections. Katie Hudson -- the 19-year-old daughter of Goldie Hawnwho has inherited her mother's looks and her pratfall proficiency -- losesher virginity to flabbergasted commitment-phobe Jay Mohr ("Mafia!").Gaudily over-dressed Christina Ricci sports an gloriously grating LongIsland accent as she and Gaby Hoffman get hopelessly lost in Alphabet Cityafter misplacing the party address.

Madonna wannabe Angela Featherstone (following "TheWedding Singer" with another '80s flashback) and petulant pal NicoleParker ("Boogie Nights") comb the bars in a superstitious frenzy,convinced if they don't wake up New Year's Day in bed with cute guys they'llspend the whole year alone. One of their candidates is a surprisingly self-mockingBen Affleck, playing a klutzy bartender and inept Casanova.

Meanwhile, the neurotic hostess of the party (Martha Plimpton)is in hysterics because midnight is rapidly advancing and her only guestsso far have been one fair-weather friend who abandons her for peppier pasturesand an ex-boyfriend in the middle of a sexual anxiety crisis.

And I haven't even mentioned the two best performancesin the picture: Janeane Garofalo as a bitter (naturally) budding rock starand Dave Chappelle, who plays the super-smooth, jive-talking cabbie thatties all the stories together.

Of course, the inevitable culmination of all this willbe happy endings and a successful party. But "200 Cigarettes"is not entirely predictable along the way and, unlike "The WeddingSinger," it doesn't depend on '80s shtick for its laughs.

Sure there's neon cowl necks sweaters, florescent fishnets,Aqua Net hair helmets, guys in eyeliner, chunky chokers, two-pound earringsand other New Wave fashion atrocities. There's also the occasional butsubtle pop culture icon (a shouldered boom box, a ring watch, Elvis Costelloin a cameo). But all of this is incidental. The comedy comes first, theself-aware goofs on Generation X, The Early Years come second, and that'swhy it will be just as funny in 2009 as it is in 1999.

And with this cast of edge-of-super-stardom players, "200Cigs" will definitely be remembered in 2009, like "American Graffiti,""Diner" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" are rememberednow for launching or accelerating humongous careers.

Ben Affleck and Christina Ricci have already become marquee-powerstars in the last 12 months, and Love, Garofalo, Hudson, Mohr, Rudd Chappelleand Plimpton (who already has a lucrative indie career) are hot on their


200 Cigarettes Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, Friday, February 26, 1999


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