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Femmes Fatale

In the quotidian "Six Days, Seven Nights," Anne Heche glistens.

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Some people in Hollywood must be having sex fantasies about female magazine editors, because here's Six Days, Seven Nights, another of those romantic fables about a will-driven, sensually undernourished New York editor who leaves the big city, falls into outdoor adventure, and finds fulfillment in the arms of a real man in the loamy (or in this case sandy) wilds. Without the perturbed elegance of Kristin Scott Thomas, who seemed to be playing Tina Brown or Anna Wintour or both, The Horse Whisperer would have been unwatchable -- swill, really -- and Anne Heche, more volatile than Scott Thomas, a comedian by temperament, is pretty much the only reason to see Six Days, Seven Nights. The picture is a clownish retread of familiar material from old movies. Director Ivan Reitman, who has given us all some pleasure (in Stripes and the Ghostbusters movies), can settle for so little at times. Six Days, Seven Nights is not as feeble as Fathers' Day; it's just lame and tiresome. What has happened to Reitman's instinct for the offbeat, the eccentric, the extravagantly silly?

Heche is initially matched up with David Schwimmer, a man patently wrong for her. I must say I'm amazed by Schwimmer -- he seems utterly hapless to me. What is the point of these people's toning up their bodies if they are going to go so limp onscreen? (At least Schwimmer should get rid of his hangdog expression, so critics don't have to use the word hangdog so often.) Anyway, Heche and Schwimmer take a vacation in the South Seas, but Heche gets ordered by her boss to do a photo shoot, so she and Harrison Ford, a drunken old pilot, take off in an ancient De Havilland Beaver that couldn't make it from here to New Jersey. You may not be astonished to hear that the plane crash-lands on the beach of a deserted island. Of course, they loathe each other; he thinks she's spoiled, not a real woman, etc., and she thinks he's a second-rater and a wreck. They hustle up and down hills and crags, and frequently fall into into sand and water, which is not quite the same thing as actually having adventures. There is, of course, the immortal scene in which he pulls a snake out of her underpants (a lewd version of Bogart pulling the leeches off Hepburn in The African Queen). The generic elements stack up quickly: The Strange But Satisfying Meal (peacock), the Night of Safety (under a tree that holds an old Japanese warplane), the Unexpected Attack (from scummy pirates, who seem to have been ordered up, complete with ratty hair and tattoos, over a telephone), and so on.

I'm glad that Anne Heche, who has spirit and intelligence, wants to establish herself as a romantic lead, though I regret that she has to scream lines like "There's nothing wrong with my tits!" in order to do so. She has great allure -- brimming eyes, a supernal glow -- when she warms up to Ford. But what is she warming up to? Ford is certainly eager to shed any mythic baggage that may have accumulated from his former heroic roles. He's too eager: There's hardly a movie star left in him. Ford mugs and staggers, furrowing his brow, thrusting his jaw. For the first time in his life, he's a commonplace actor and just outright bad.


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