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Excess Baggage
  [rating: 2 of 4 stars]movie review by Gary Johnson

Well, let's get the obvious out of the way: Is Excess Baggage as good as Clueless? Umm . . . no. Is it even close? Nope. Do we get to see Alicia Silverstone acting like a young rich bitch again? Yep. Is it as fun to watch her this time around? Nope. Without Clueless, would this movie attract much attention? Nope.

To be fair, Excess Baggage is a very different movie than Clueless. Thanks to director/writer Amy Heckerling, Clueless gave us a flashy, campy look at life among the rich teenage princesses of Beverly Hills. ("Why learn to park when every place you go has a valet?") Excess Baggage takes less of a pop art approach, with less emphasis on outrageous visuals and color schemes. It also provides less opportunities for reveling in the daily travails of the valley girl lifestyle. Instead, it gives us an attention-starved teenager who simply wants her father to treat her with more love and care.

Unlike Clueless, which allowed the audience to experience the craziness of the rich-bitch lifestyle before dealing out a moral lesson, Excess Baggage announces its intentions rightaway: poor Emily T. Hope arranges her own kidnapping so that her father will pay her some attention. She simply wants to hear him say that she is the most important thing in his life. She has visions of being reunited with her loving father as he embraces her and tells her how incredibly important she is to him.

Alicia Silverstone and Benicio Del Toro
in a publicity still for
Excess Baggage.
(©1997 Columbia Pictures. All rights reserved.)

Played by noted Australian star, Jack Thompson (who many people will remember for his excellent performance in Breaker Morant), Emily's father cares only about money. Every deal is important. He has no patience for a daughter who distracts him from his work. So Emily calls her father while disguising her voice, outlines the ransom demands, and tells him where she can be found. She wraps her ankles and mouth with strapping tape, snaps handcuffs over her wrists, and stuffs herself in the trunk of her BMW.

It's a wonderfully zany premise; however, the movie doesn't hold many more surprises for us. Sure, a thief immediately steals Emily's BMW, with Emily still bound and gagged in the trunk! But from then on the movie becomes more and more ordinary and predictable. Once the thief, Vincent (Benicio Del Toro), and Emily are together, the movie simply gives us an incredibly hackneyed storyline: Vincent and Emily initially hate one another but eventually their love starts to grow. Will they fall in love or won't they? There's not much suspense in that plot.

Alicia Silverstone and Benicio Del Toro
Excess Baggae.
(©1997 Columbia Pictures. All rights reserved.)

The screenplay gives us a scary "Uncle" Ray (played by Christopher Walken). Emily's father calls in Ray, an ex-CIA assassin, to remedy the situation, thus putting Vincent's life in danger. We also get Nicholas Turturro and Michael Bowen as two heavies who think they've been conned out of $200,000 by Vincent. These characters only serve to help distract us from the paucity of inventive material in the rest of the movie. It's easy to guess what's going to happen between Emily and Vincent: either they gradually fall in love or they continue to hate each other. And it's easy to guess what's going to happen between Emily and her father: either he changes his tune and embraces his daughter or he continues to treat her as an annoyance and thus loses her.

Excess Baggage has a great central premise, but story-wise at least, it doesn't have much else. Director Marco Brambilla (who also directed Demolition Man with Sylvester Stallone) gives the movie a slick, stylish veneer. And the movie is filled with good performances: Christopher Walken is creepy but recognizably human as Uncle Ray (in a role that easily could have become nothing more than a caricature) and Nicholas Turturro and Michael Bowen make believably stupid strong arm men, while Jack Thompson creates a shark-like businessman who has no patience for youthful exuberance. But the screenplay poorly serves these characters. Instead of providing some equally outrageous plot developments, Excess Baggage coasts for an hour and a half on the charms of Ms. Silverstone. And while her girl-next-door beauty and her spunky attitude might be enough to make this movie tolerable for her legion of fans, they deserve more than a predictable yarn that wastes all of its wit in the first few minutes.


Go to the Excess Baggage Web site

Go to the Columbia Pictures Web site

A Columbia Pictures Presentation


Emily T. HopeAlicia Silverstone
VincentBenicio Del Toro
Uncle RayChristopher Walken
Alexander HopeJack Thompson
StickNicholas Turturro
GusMichael Bowen
LouiseSally Kirkland
Detective BarnabyLeland Orser
GregHarry Connick, Jr.
Directed byMarco Brambilla
Produced byBill Borden
Carolyn Kessler
Story byMax D. Adams
Screenplay byMax D. Adams and
Dick Clement
& Ian La Frenais
Director of PhotographyJean Yves Escoffier
Production DesignerMissy Stewart
Edited byStephen Rivkin
Music byJohn Lurie
Costume DesignerBeatrix Aruna Pasztor
Co-ProducerB. Casey Grant
Music SupervisorAnita Camarata
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