Vanity projects comes in all shapes and sizes whether they be big flashy ‘struggling to stardom’ dramas like “Glitter”, or of the quieter more innocent style in the likes of “Crossroads” and Mandy Moore’s first foray into acting – the sweet but overly sentimental “A Walk to Remember”.
Now comes “How to Deal” which is quite similar to ‘Walk’ in many ways but not as interesting. Its so innocuous that people still say things like ‘darn’ instead of swear words whilst the main gist of the plot is some 17-year-old doughy-eyed girl is already cynical (without any decent explanation as to why) about how love hurts people so you know by film’s end she’s going to do a complete reversal and turn in a Baz Luhrmann verdict on the issue. Its just so full of fluff that its a shock this was given a major theatrical release when its something far more suited for an after-school 50’s family film movie marathon on the Disney Channel.
‘Deal’ may be a better representation of suburban life than something like say “Crossroads” but that doesn’t make for good topics to cover in a movie. Films like this with an almost fantasy level of niceness to them are difficult projects to handle – if done right it can strike a chord and last in the minds of cinemagoers for many years to come as the story doesn’t age too fast.
‘Deal’ is an example of everything done wrong – all the cliches are here and then some, decisions are made and opinions formed in one minute and then suddenly changed the next. In this world the worst thing one can do is not fall in love, and people seem to have all the conviction of a swing voter in a leopard-print bikini. Subplots like a parental romance are brought up and summarily dropped, others like a sister’s on again-off again engagement are treated more like a farce than anything serious.
For such a cast too it’s a surprise. Allison Janney and Dylan Baker are two of the most talented actors out there and yet both look tired and with little to do – esp. Baker who seems awkward playing all overly happy. Mandy Moore is one of the few singers out there who does have acting talent and could make the crossover but this is not a great vehicle for her talents even though she’s onscreen for almost all the runtime.
Peter Gallagher has a fun supporting part as her eccentric DJ father, but Trent Ford proves one of the more lackluster teen hunk love interests of a year which has proven surprisingly strong with them. Moore fans may enjoy seeing their girl get some good screen time but otherwise there’s nothing too this movie. It’s charming nature makes it as insubstantial as cobwebs, and yet its sheer lack of anything makes it a real time waster which you will feel.