As if the institution of marriage hasn’t been beaten up in the movies enough this decade, The Bachelor is here to make the prospect seem absolutely horrifying. Jimmie Shannon (Chris O’Donnell), the single guy on the cusp of his 30th year to whom the title refers, watches bouquet toss after nauseating bouquet toss as all of his buddies tie the knot.
Jimmie isn’t quite ready to cut the cake, not even with his "easy-going" girlfriend, Anne (Renée Zellweger). He’s too busy fantasizing life as a wild mustang and thumbing through a secret trove of pictures of old conquests. But when his bullhorn-toting, cantankerous grandfather (Peter Ustinov) dies and leaves him a $100 million inheritance on the condition that he marries by his approaching birthday, there’s no more room on the dusty plains for galloping around.
To say that The Bachelor slips in and out of Disney-ish clichés as fast as would-be brides get in and out of gowns in this movie would be an understatement. It’s a lot like a big-city square dance where every guy grabs a girl and courtship is the primary focus of existence.
Of course, there’s nothing like a good chase to spice up romance. And that’s one thing The Bachelor offers. Jimmie and his business partners-friends, O’Dell (Hal Holbrook), Gluckman (Ed Asner) and Marco (Artie Lange), scour the city of San Francisco in search of the multimillion-dollar bride. The hunt sets the movie into much needed motion, adding Mariah Carey in a small part as Ilana, a self-absorbed opera singer, and Brooke Shields as Buckley, a cash-consumed socialite who sees a potential merger in Jimmie’s offer. But, unfortunately, none of this is enough to make the funny lines funny or the overdone comic stunts effective.
At one point, the movie starts to look like Revenge of the Killer Brides or a bizarre matrimonial version of The Wizard of Oz, something that hasn’t been done since Wild at Heart.
When a swarm of dwarfed women in white gowns are gathered in the center of town staring up at a happy couple who look down on them from a fire escape, you think, "Dorothy drifting back to Kansas in her borrowed balloon." But maybe it isn’t just your imagination.
At the end of Jimmie’s grandfather’s videotaped last will and testament, the camera zooms in on the old man’s face as he shrieks and threatens to cut his grandson off. The frame freezes and the view becomes eerily reminiscent of the wicked witch cackling at Dorothy through a crystal ball. Too bad the makers of The Bachelor didn’t take a chance on the Wizard of Oz idea and run with it. As it is, there was nothing to lose but a few yawns.
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