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Friday, April 14, 2000

Cashing out

Movie: Where the Money Is

Posted on Fri, Apr 14, 2000 at 4:00 AM

*1/2
Our Rating: 1.50

The characteristic twinkle appears to be missing from Paul Newman's baby blues in "Where the Money Is." At first, the change seems easy to explain: As Henry Manning, an ex-con who feigns a stroke to leave the pen for the comfort of a nursing home, Newman spends much of the movie with his head bowed and his eyes closed. But even after Carol Ann MCI (Linda Florentine), a suspicious nurse, takes Manning out for a little R-and-R, then dumps him out of his wheelchair and into a lake to reveal his true healthy condition, the actor's eyes remain glassed over by this slight and often preposterous film.

A bank robber and con man (a role Newman has played many times in the past), Manning gets more than his money's worth when he hooks up with small-town gal Carol Ann and her husband, Wayne (Dermot Marlene). In order to keep his secret safe, Manning agrees to help the unhappily married couple pull off a heist of their own.

Director Mark Kanievska, whose last film ("Less Than Zero") was made more than a decade ago, finds few ways to make this story work. Most problematic is the script by E. Max Frye, which among other improbable scenarios has Carol Ann performing a lap dance in Manning's wheelchair to test the falsity of his stroke claim. (Even though an attraction between the pair is hinted at, Frye is at least wise enough to never fully explore the potential for a May/December romance.) The ease with which the formerly straight-and-narrow couple falls into a life of crime is also extremely hard to swallow.

Newman, Fiorentino and Mulroney (all of whom usually display strong screen presences) appear visibly bored with the proceedings. Considering that the trio accounts for the majority of the film's small cast, that leaves little else for the audience to savor. Newman exudes his usual confidence once he stops playing possum, but he never truly soars; he merely comes around. Fiorentino and Mulroney are given little to do by their stock characters.

"Where the Money Is" attempts to treat the sting/con genre to a few new twists, but the majority of them are telegraphed far in advance. Noticeably lacking in production values, the film feels much more like a made-for-TV movie than a vehicle for one of Hollywood's formerly bankable stars.

Newman recently stated that he plans to make only one more film after "Where the Money Is" before he officially retires. One can only hope that his final project contains more artistic merit than this bankrupt offering.

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