"My New Life," it says on the cover of People magazine next to a photograph of a smiling ' that's right, smiling ' Harrison Ford. And although the smile seems a little forced (a take-the-goddamn-picture smile), there's that ahoy-matey earring dangling from Ford's left ear. Clearly, the guy's ready to get down and party, and not a moment too soon. After grumbling through the last 10 (20?) years of his career, Ford is starting to seem like the Ebenezer Scrooge of Hollywood, a killjoy. He's always been reluctant to crack a smile, even as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but there used to be something going on behind that stony faÃade, a devil-may-care amusement at life's passing parade. To see what I mean, check out American Graffiti.
And to see what's left of it, check out Hollywood Homicide, where, among other things, Ford shakes his bootay to an old Smokey Robinson tune, chomps on a doughnut while making sweet love to Lena Olin and goes after the bad guys on a pink Schwinn bicycle he stole from some little girl. As Joe Gavilan, an LAPD cop who's nearing the end of his career, Ford is given the opportunity to let it all hang out. Before filming began, director Ron Shelton reportedly said to him, "What about the part of you that, with a couple of drinks and a cigar, is a different guy?" Well, folks, I'm afraid a couple of drinks hasn't done it. Nor has Ford's "new life" with that eternal sprite, Calista Flockhart. If Ally McBeal can't jump-start your mojo, who can?
It's not that Ford doesn't try. It's that he doesn't seem to be having a good time in front of the camera. Nor does Josh Hartnett, who plays Gavilan's much-younger partner, K.C. Calden. Gavilan and Calden are supposed to be an odd couple ' Gavilan the cheeseburger veteran, Calden the bean-sprouts rookie. But the movie, which takes the "Hollywood" part of its title very seriously, doesn't stop there. It's given them character quirks in the form of second jobs. Gavilan sells real estate, sometimes while apprehending a perp. And Calden both teaches yoga and aspires to be an actor. Eddie Murphy did the cop/actor thing as recently as last year, in Showtime. But real estate and yoga, those are new. And Hollywood Homicide rides them for all they're worth.
Not a lot, alas. The problem is that they're quirks, not traits, and they're attached to Gavilan and Calden like Post-It Notes. Shelton, who (in addition to directing) produced the movie and co-wrote the script, used to know how to put over this kind of material. Bull Durham and Tin Cup certainly had their share of quirky characters. But Hollywood Homicide doesn't give itself the same room to breathe; like its lead characters, it has a job to do. Which brings up the plot, something about a gang-style slaying in a hip-hop club and its possible connection with an Internal Affairs investigation of Gavilan's policing methods. Speaking of connections, almost every character turns out to be connected with almost every other character in ways that would require a white board and dozens of colored markers to keep straight.
You won't believe who shows up in the movie ' Dwight Yoakam, Master P, Gladys Knight, Kurupt, Smokey Robinson, Frank Sinatra Jr., and those are just the musicians! (There must have been one hell of a sing-along between takes.) Robert Wagner plays himself. Lou Diamond Phillips plays a drag queen. Eric Idle idles by. You practically need a star map to sort through the cast, and you certainly need one as the movie negotiates the mean streets of Tinsel Town ' Rodeo Drive, Grauman's Chinese Theater, the Venice canals, Sunset Boulevard. Like Galivan, Shelton knows the value of location, location, location, although the chase scenes seem like outtakes from "The Dukes of Hazzard" ' TV mayhem at feature-film prices, and with no Boss Hogg.
Why Shelton has given up sports for law enforcement (including this year's Dark Blue) is anybody's guess. Maybe he thought he'd done all he could do. But jocks ' particularly older jocks on their last legs ' are Shelton's muse. What was great about Bull Durham and Tin Cup was that they drew their tones from the sports they featured ' ambling along, but with moments of high drama. White Men Can't Jump and Play It to the Bone were less successful, if only because they featured the contact sports of street basketball and boxing. Shelton couldn't get that lazy, hazy pace going. He's at his best when he's standing at the plate, focused yet relaxed, with one eye on the ball and one eye on the stands. But Hollywood Homicide seems both aimless and frenetic.
Some may enjoy the pitch-and-catch between Gavilan and Calden. The movie's designed to attract two audiences, Ford fans and Hartnett group.ies. And the audience I saw it with, mostly Ford fans, seemed to be having a good time, even though Ford and Hartnett didn't. Hartnett, who's been getting by on his looks so far, wasn't very happy with the way Ford treated him during the filming; there was little fatherly advice, which Ford said would have gone against the character he was playing. "I didn't actively initiate any trouble," Ford has said, "but neither did I dress his wounds." The result is that Hartnett seems wounded. Neither of these guys is exactly a ball of fire on his best day. Here, they're both low-temperature ' foils in search of a live wire.